Colon cancer FAQs
Following are the common questions about Colon Cancer:
- Where colon is located in the human body?
- What is Colon cancer?
- What is Colorectal cancer?
- What causes Colon cancer?
- Which are the early warning signs of Colon cancer?
- What are the symptoms of Colon cancer?
- What is the role of genetics in Colon cancer?
- What is the prognosis in case of Colon cancer?
- Which tests are used to diagnose Colon cancer?
- How Colon cancer is treated?
- What is survival rate in Colon cancer patients?
- What are benefits of Colorectal cancer screening?
- Which measures need to be taken for prevention of Colon cancer?
- Which complications arise from Colon cancer?
- What is palliative care?
Where colon is located in the human body?
The last part of the digestive system is the colon. It is also known as large intestine.
What is Colon cancer?
Colon cancer is developed from colon or rectum. It is also known as colorectal or bowel cancer. It generates from the abnormal growth of cells having the ability to spread around inside the body. Almost all types of colon cancers initiate in the lining of the colon and rectum.
What is Colorectal cancer?
Colon cancer is not necessarily similar to the rectal cancer. Both of them often occur together and known as colorectal cancer. The Colon cancer is the cancer of large intestine often known as colorectal cancer. Rectal cancer originates in the rectum, which is close to the anus.
What causes Colon cancer?
There are many risk factors responsible for the generation of colon cancer. These include high fat intake, male gender, old age, obesity, consumption of red and processed meat, high alcohol consumption and lack of body movements. Insufficient activity is also one of the causes of colon cancer in some cases. Inflammatory bowel disease patients are prone to get colorectal cancer.
Which are the early warning signs of Colon cancer?
The classic early warning signs of Colon cancer include:
- Blood in the stool
- Worsening constipation
- Decrease in the thickness of stool
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
What are the symptoms of Colon cancer?
Symptoms of the Colon cancer are listed below
- Abdominal pain
- Tenderness in lower abdomen
- Blood in the stool
- Changes in bowel movements
- Severe diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of weight
- Prolonged tiredness
What is the role of genetics in Colon cancer?
There are chances of having genetic birth defects which make one susceptible to cancer during some phase of life. Family history is a risk factor in occurrence of Colon cancer. It has been reported that people with family history of Colon cancer in two or more first degree relatives i.e., parents or siblings, are at high risk of this disease.Genetic syndromes associated with colorectal cancer are given below:
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or Lynch syndrome
- Gardner syndrome
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Metastatic disease is a severe condition which may lead to death when associated with colon cancer. The hepatocyte growth factor gets influenced by a transitional factor which is a gene called MACC1. This gene is responsible for occurrence of metastatic disease. Certain epigenetic factors like abnormal DNA methylation of tumor suppression promoters are responsible for generation of colorectal cancer.
What is the prognosis in case of Colon cancer?
It is possible for colorectal cancer patients to live a normal life. Though there is availability of treatments with positive outcomes, combination of treatments may be needed for prevention of recurrence of the cancer. Combination of treatments may involve chemotherapy, radiation and surgical methods.
Which tests are used to diagnose Colon cancer?
Even before the symptoms develop, colon cancer can be detected with the aid of screening tests. This is possible in the most curable stage of cancer. Rectal examination helps detecting only rectal cancer and not the colon cancer. Tests used for colon cancer diagnosis are discussed below.
Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy - Colonoscopy is the best screening test for colon cancer diagnosis. This is carried out for evaluation of cause behind the presence of blood in stool. The entire colon can be seen only with the help of full Colonoscopy.Blood tests performed for the diagnosis of colon cancer are given below:
Fecal occult blood test - Detection of small quantity of blood can be done using Fecal occult blood test (FOBT).
Complete blood count (CBC) for the detection of anemia
Liver function tests Once colon cancer is diagnosed, further tests are required to confirm the stage of the cancer. For stage determination, CT or MRI scans of abdomen, chest, brain as well as pelvic area are carried out.
There are following stages of cancer:
- Stage 0 – Early cancer in the innermost intestinal layer
- Stage I – Cancer in the inner layer of colon
- Stage II – Spread of cancer though muscle wall of colon
- Stage III – Spread of cancer to the lymph nodes
- Stage IV – Spread of cancer to the organs outside the colon
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) – This is a blood test used for detection of tumor markers. This is useful during the colon cancer diagnosis and treatment.
How Colon cancer is treated?
Treatment of colon cancer depends on many things, including the stage of the cancer. Treatments may include:
- Surgical methods
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
Surgical methods:Stage 0 colon cancer can be treated by surgical removal of tumor. This is mostly carried out using Colonoscopy. Expensive surgical treatments are required for stage I, II and III cancer. Chemotherapy:Chemotherapy is recommended for stage III colon cancer after surgery for the duration of more than 6 months. This treatment is known as adjuvant chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is continued for certain period after surgical removal of cancerous growth for treating remaining cancer cells if any. Radiation therapy:This therapy is used along with chemotherapy for stage III rectal cancer patients. For treating cancerous growth spread to the liver, treatment can be directed at the liver. This involves Ablation (burning the cancer), chemotherapy or radiation application directly into the liver and cryotherapy (freezing the cancer). Targeted therapy:As the name suggests, this therapy acts on specific targets in cancer cells. The drug disables the cancerous cells to avoid their growth further. Targeted surgery can be used along with other types of treatments.
What is survival rate in Colon cancer patients?
Based on the extent of cancer observed during diagnosis and its recovery, survival rate can be decided. Response to the treatment may vary from person to person.
What are benefits of Colorectal cancer screening?
Screening involves process of finding the presence of cancer or pre-cancer signs in the patients. The most powerful way to fight against cancer in early stages is regular colorectal screening. According to medical literature, screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) helps in reducing CRC mortality rate.
Which measures need to be taken for prevention of Colon cancer?
Lifestyle and dietary changes are big factors while considering Colon cancer prevention. According to Medical research, high-fiber and low-fat diet helps in reducing colon cancer risk. Use of NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Naproxen and Celecoxib can aid in reducing colon cancer risk as per some studies. While using NSAIDS, their side effects need to be taken into consideration.
At early stages, it is possible to cure colon disease easily and this can be achieved with the help of Colonoscopy.
Which complications arise from Colon cancer?Complications of Colon cancer are given below:
- Bowel obstruction as a result of colon blockage
- Recurrence of cancer into the colon
- Spread of cancer to the neighbor tissues and organs
- Generation of second primary colorectal cancer
What is palliative care?
Palliative care helps in enhancing quality of life of patients with life threatening diseases along with their families. This care takes into consideration physical and well as psychological needs of patients. Through palliative care, provision of support is done for the patients and their care takers.