Every person deserves a healthy life. With the National Colon Cancer Awareness Month happening this March, it’s time to know more about colon cancer, how we can prevent it, and ways to support those who have colon cancer.
Colon Cancer Awareness Month
Based on the Centers for Disease Center and Prevention (CDC) studies, colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the US.
The Colon Cancer Awareness Month observance aims to support the survivors and those suffering from colon cancer. It also informs the people about the disease and creates an empowered community.
This observance usually takes place in March. Supporters would wear a dark blue ribbons or shirts to spark a conversation and raise awareness about colon cancer.
WHAT IS COLON CANCER?
Colon cancer is one to be one of the deadliest cancer. It is a type of cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon).
This disease is more common among older adults, although it can strike anyone. Polyps, or tiny noncancerous (benign) collections of cells that grow on the inside of the colon are frequently the first signs of colon cancer. Colon cancer can develop from some of these polyps over time.
Facts and Statistics About Colon Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, the amount of colorectal cancer cases in the United States in 2022 will be:
- 106,180 new cases of colon cancer
- 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer
The rate of people diagnosed with colon cancer has significantly decreased since the 1980s thanks to more people being screened. Having a healthy lifestyle also helped in reducing the number.
Overall, the chances of people getting colon cancer are about 1 in 23 for men. On the other hand, there’s a 1 in 25 probability for women to get the disease.
What causes colon cancer?
The alteration or mutation of healthy colon cells leads to the development of cancer. A cell’s DNA contains instructions about what it should accomplish.
Healthy cells divide and grow in a regular rhythm to keep your body working smoothly. Even if new cells aren’t required when a cell’s DNA is disrupted and becomes cancerous, the cell continues to divide. A tumor then forms when the cells accumulate.
Cancer cells can grow big enough to invade and destroy healthy tissues in the surrounding area. Furthermore, cancerous cells can spread throughout the body and form deposits (metastasis).
Here are some risk factors that are associated with colon cancer.
Colon cancer can strike at any age. However, the majority of those diagnosed are over 50. Colon cancer rates in persons under the age of 50 have been rising, but doctors aren’t sure why.
You’re more likely to have colon cancer if someone in your family has had it. Your odds are even higher if you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer.
A high-fat, low-fiber diet
A typical Western diet that is low in fiber and high in fat in calories can lead to colon and rectal cancers. However, the findings of the research are divided.
According to multiple studies, people who eat a lot of red and processed meat have a higher risk of colon cancer.
INFLAMMATORY INTESTINAL CONDITIONS
Having chronic inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can increase your risk of getting colon cancer.
Colon cancer is more likely to happen to people who aren’t moving around a lot. Colon cancer may be less likely if you stay active on a regular basis.
Individuals who are obese have more chances of getting colon cancer than people who have average weight.
Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer symptoms may not show up at all in the early stages. If you do have signs in stages 0 through 2, they’re likely to be:
- color and shape changes in your stool
- blood in the stool
- rectal bleeding
- abdominal cramps and abdominal pain
People who have many of these symptoms may also have other problems that aren’t as bad. However, if you have any of these symptoms for more than a week or two, you should see a doctor.
Consulting with your doctor would help determine whether or not a colon cancer screening is appropriate.
How do you screen for colon cancer and when should you get it?
Polyps and colorectal cancer can be found with a number of different tests. If your stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and CT scans show something is wrong then you’ll need a colonoscopy.
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test is a test based on the chemical guaiac that detects blood in the stool. For this test, you get a kit from your doctor. At home, you use a stick or brush to get a little bit of stool. As such, a doctor or lab checks the stool samples for blood when you send the test kit back. This test is done once a year.
- The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) looks for blood in the stool with antibodies. As with gFOBT, it’s done once every year.
- Fit-DNA, also known as the stool DNA test, is a test that looks for DNA changes in the stool. It is then sent it to the lab, where they check it for cancer cells. The test is done every three years.
In flexible sigmoidoscopy, a doctor can see inside the body without having to move. Moreover, a very short, flexible, tube with lights is then inserted into your rectum. The doctor looks for the cancer cells in that area or in the lower third of the colon.
It’s similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the doctor uses a longer tube with a light to check the rectum and the entire colon for polyps and cancer.
The doctor can discover and remove most polyps and certain cancer cells during the test, but not all of them.
If something is discovered during one of the previous examinations, a colonoscopy is performed as a follow-up test. The test is done every 10 years.
Treatment After Diagnosis
A variety of factors influence colon cancer treatment. Your overall health and stage of your colon concern determine the optimum treatment approach.
In the early stages of colon cancer, your surgeon might be able to remove malignant polyps with surgery. Your chances of survival are favorable if the polyp hasn’t attached to the gut wall.
Another option is chemotherapy. Injections of drugs to kill cancer cells are part of the procedure. Following surgery to remove any leftover malignant cells, patients with colon cancer are commonly given chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a treatment that can help tumors progress more slowly.
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