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Understanding colon cancer

Understanding colon cancer

  • 15 May 2022

What is colon cancer (or colorectal cancer)?

The type of cancer that starts in the colon is called colon cancer, and the one that begins in the rectum is rectal cancer. Cancer that affects either of the two organs is also called colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer occurs when some of the cells in the lining (endothelium) of the colon become “abnormal” and begin to grow without control. Abnormally growing cells slowly form a tumor, which is cancer. Colon cancer is one of the diet-dependent cancers because our eating habits (environmental factors) play a significant role in its development and cure, more perhaps than other genetic factors.

Risk factors for developing colon cancer

Anyone can potentially develop colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and among the majority of people who develop colon cancer, there are no unique, common risk factors. Although the exact cause of colon cancer has not been 100% known, yet, there are several key risk factors that could trigger the development of colon cancer:

Age – The disease is more common in people over 50 years. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases every decade of life. Regular diagnostic tests after the age of 50 are considered necessary for the timely detection of any possible lesion.
Gender – Although there is no clear distinction among risk levels between the two sexes, women have a higher risk of colon cancer while men are more likely to develop rectal cancer.
Medical history – Research has shown that women with a history of ovarian or uterine cancer have a slightly higher risk of developing and developing colorectal cancer. In addition, people with colitis or Crohn’s disease have a higher risk.
Family history (DNA) – Parents, siblings, and children of someone who has developed colorectal cancer are more likely to develop the same disease.
Diet – Eating habits such as a western diet high in saturated fatty acids and “empty” calories and low in fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory nutrients are associated with a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
Lifestyle – Alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity are additional risk factors for the development of colon cancer.
Diabetes – Diabetics have a 30-40% increased risk of developing colon cancer in their lifetime.
Polyps – They start as non-cancerous tumors in the inner wall of the colon with a high frequency in people over 50 years of age. Adenomas are a form of non-cancerous polyps that can be mutated and are the primary precursor to colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer prevention

Prevention is always the best treatment. To achieve colon cancer prevention we have to target those risk factors that we can influence. These are:
1. lifestyle and
2. our eating habits.
Dietary fiber, regular exercise, adequate water intake, and a personalized diet based on our genetic sensitivities are the basics that will help us balance the risk factors we can not influence, such as age and gender. Proper monitoring and tailored-made guidelines by experienced nutritionist-dietitians guarantee our correct and targeted nutritional habits that will favor and enhance colon cancer prevention.

Main colon cancer symptoms

Although prevention is better than treatment, if the symptoms begin, then the earlier we detect them, the better the chances of a cure. Symptoms that can raise suspicions and should lead us immediately to our physician are:

  • Change in bowel habits. Diarrhea or constipation or change in stool composition.
  • Sparse, thin stools.
  • Bleeding or blood in the stool.
  • Persistent abdominal problems, such as gas, pain or cramps.
  • Feeling of incomplete bowel movement.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Constant fatigue.
  • Diagnostic blood tests
Four cancer stages

The stages of cancer

The earlier a cancer is detected and treated, the better the chances of a cure are. The diagnosis of cancer is made by microscopic examination (biopsy) of a tissue section while imaging techniques are used to record the spread of cancer, a process also known as staging. The stages of cancer according to the above are four:
Stage I: Cancer has developed in the inner wall of the colon. The tumor has not yet reached the outer wall of the large intestine nor has it spread outside the large intestine. Stage I colon cancer is also called Duke’s stage A.
Stage II: The tumor extends deeper into the wall of the colon or rectum. It may have affected adjacent tissues, but the cancer cells have not yet spread to the lymph nodes. Stage II colon cancer is also called Duke stage B.
Stage III: Cancer spreads to the lymph nodes in question, but not to other parts of the body. Stage III colon cancer is also called Duke stage C.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs. Stage IV colon cancer is also called Duke stage D.

References: ©2007/ Wolters Kluwer/ Lippincott Williams & Wilkins/ Published by Anatomical Chart Company, Skokie, IL



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