The diagnosis of colon or colorectal cancer accounts for more newly cancer diagnoses in the United States each year. Cancer of the colon and rectum is the most frequent cause of cancer deaths among visceral malignancies that affect both male and female. This type cancer is the second leading cancer death rate, lung being first. There was an estimated 146,940 new diagnosed cases in 2004 in the U.S. Many of the new cases and deaths are preventable by improvements in nutrition, physical activity and regular check ups. When colorectal cancer is detected early, survival rates are much higher. If the patient works with a team to rebuild their immune system, survival rates are ever higher.

Colorectal cancers include the colon, rectum, appendix and anus. Colorectal cancers may occur anywhere in the large intestines but usually occur in the right ascending colon.

The colon is the part of the large intestines which extends from the cecum to the rectum. It can be described as a long coiling, looping tube-like organ that removes water from digested food and solid waste material called feces or stool. The average colon is approximately 6 feet long.

Cancer of the colon and rectum possibly can spread by:

  1. Extension through the bowel wall
  2. Distribution by the circulation or through the blood stream (hematogenous).
  3. Regional lymph node metastases
  4. Surrounding nerve or nerves ( perineural).
  5. Within the wall of a nearby organ (intramural).

Symptoms

Early diagnosis depends on routine examination. Adenocarcinoma of the colon and rectum is believed to grow slowly and at a long time span before it is large enough to produce symptoms. Cells may change from a precancerous state or benign polyp to a cancerous state. Colon cancer symptoms may include:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • The stool may be streaked or mixed with blood
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool as if becoming more like a ribbon shape
  • Feeling of fullness or that you can not empty completely
  • Feeling of tired or weakness
  • Paleness
  • Repeated infections
  • Anemia
  • Gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, abdominal pain.
  • Pain can be absent until perirectal tissue is involved.
  • A yellowish color of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Loss of appetite

Etiology

The exact reason why some people get colorectal cancer is not always known, however studies have shown that there are certain factors that may play a large role in breaking down the immune system. When our immune system can not fight off the problems that can arise, disease states can set in. Known predisposing conditions for colorectal cancer include:

  • A history of having multiple colon polyps.
  • A history of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Diet low in fiber and high in animal protein and refined carbohydrates.
  • Physical inactivity of less than 3-4 hours per week
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption of more than 1 drink a day
  • Age- The incidence of colorectal cancer increases with age starting around the age of 50. This disease affects both male and female.

Recommendations for Prevention

  • Eat plenty of fiber and vegetables daily
  • Adopt a physically active lifestyle
  • Find happiness! Do not wait for it to come to you.
  • Maintain a good weight for you and your bone frame.
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Try to stop smoking and have the goal to stop smoking.
  • Get routine physical check ups from your doctor.

Diagnostic Tests

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
  • Barium Enema
  • Colonoscopy
  • Complete Blood Test (CBC) to check for anemia and assess liver function

Colon Colon Glossary

  • Barium Enema: An x-ray of the colon and rectum using a suspension of barium given as an enema into the intestine as a contrast agent for radiologic examination. The barium outlines the intestines on the x-rays which allows abnormal growths to be seen.
  • Benign: not malignant; not recurrent; not cancerous.
  • Biopsy: the removal and examination of a small piece of tissue from the living body to determine if cancer cells are present.
  • Chemotherapy: a treatment for disease by using chemical agents.
  • Colonoscope: an elongated flexible instrument with a light that is built in which permits visual examination of the entire colon and rectum.
  • Colonoscopy: an examination in which the doctor uses a colonscope to examine the colon and rectal areas. This procedure allows the doctor to take biopsies or remove polyps.
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test: A test to check for hidden blood in the stool. These tests can be bought at your local pharmacies now so you can check at home. You can also request a test from your doctor and can take it home and return it the next day for your doctor to check it.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: >A procedure in which the doctor uses an instrument with a light and camera on the end of the tube which is very flexible. This procedure allows the doctor to inspect the lower colon and rectal areas.
  • Metastatic: the transfer of a cancer from one organ to another.
  • Polyp: a protruding growth, often precancerous.
  • Radiation: a treatment for disease using high-frequency ionizing radiation.
  • Sigmoidoscope: a rigid or flexible lighted instrument with a camera that allows the doctor to view the lining of the rectum and lower colon areas.
  • Tumor: a growth of tissue in which the division of cells is uncontrolled and progressive.

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