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Colon cancer is cancer that has developed in the tissues of the longest section of the large intestine, the colon. The large intestine is the lower part of your digestive tract. Colon cancer most often starts in the mucus lining within the bowel. Historically, this cancer begins as small “bumps” that have grown along the lining. These bumps are called polyps and are usually noncancerous at first but over long periods, these polyps often grow into cancerous cells.
Unfortunately, its symptoms are very similar to other diseases, so often, when you can detect that something is wrong, the disease may be widely spread. The symptoms include things like a change in your bowel habits, blood in your stool or rectal bleeding, and persistent discomfort in your abdomen. You could also experience fatigue, thinner stools, or unexplained weight loss.
Fortunately, this type of cancer can easily be identified early with specific screening tests. Polyps can be found and treated even before they are cancerous. Some of these screening tests include a colonoscopy (which gets a detailed look at the colon wall with a microscopic camera), a sigmoidoscopy (colonoscopy of a limited, lower area of the colon), a fecal occult blood test (which tests for blood in stool), and a barium enema (which uses x-rays for detection). If there are any suspicious results from any of these tests, a biopsy of the colon should be done. Screening for colon cancer is recommended to begin at the age of fifty. This is due to the higher risk of developing colon cancer increases with age.
Other factors, in addition to older age, also play a role in the possibility of developing colon cancer. These risks include being African-American, having a personal history of polyps of cancer, having inherited gene mutations, being obese, being diabetic, smoking, having a low activity level, and drinking lots of alcohol. Although this list is fairly long, and going through these screenings may not be pleasant, good news would far out way the bad news. The payoff for early detection is the removal of the cancer, usually by way of surgery.
The Cancer.gov website estimates that in 2011, there were 101,340 new cases of colon cancer and 39,870 new rectal cancers (also in the large intestine but a specific area). Of these 141,210 cases, they estimate 49,380 deaths.
Colon cancer boils down to this: Early Detection Is The Key. A couple of unpleasant days with a few doctors versus uncomfortable and continuous bowel issues and possibly death. Which would you prefer? The decision is yours.