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Colon Cancer

What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is a malignancy in any portion of the large intestine
which consist of the colon (tube into which the small intestines
empties) and the rectum 9the last 14 inches of the colon).
The colon ascends from the lower right section of the abdomen,
crosses above the small intestines, and descends at the left side
to form the rectum. Also known as Colorectal cancer.

Most colon cancer occures on the left side in the sigmoid colon the segment closest to the rectum.

In the United States, colon cancer is one of the most common causes of death. Among all cancers, mortality from colon cancer ranks second only to mortality from lung cancer.

What causes colon cancer?
The underlying cause is not known. some researchers believe that diet play an important role, mainly because populations studies have found that people who consume a diet low in fiber and high in protein and fat, which is the typical fare in the United States and most other industrialized countries, have a high incidence of colon cancer. Exactly how diet can promote cancer is not known, although scientists think it may be related to the digestion of fats and the amount of time it takes waste to move through the colon.

Symptoms:

     
Change in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation).
      Rectal bleeding.
      Lower abdominal pain or bloating.
      Change in the size or shape of the stool.

Warnings! Some people have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Risk factors include:

     Family history of the disease.
     Polyps in the colon
     Ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases.

If you fall into a high risk group, you should see your doctor every year or so for screening tests for possible colon cancer. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and press on your belly area. The physical exam rarely shows any problems, although an abdominal mass may be felt. A rectal exam may reveal a mass in patients with rectal cancer, but not colon cancer.
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Imaging tests to diagnose colorectal cancer include:

     Colonoscopy
     Sigmoidoscopy

Note: Only colonoscopy can see the entire colon.

How is colon cancer diagnosed and treated?
A biopsy of tissue taken from tumor or lesion in the colon is needed to establish a
diagnosis of colon cancer. Colon cancer is treated by surgical removal of the tumor
along with a portion of the colon above & below the cancer to make sure that all
tumor cells are removed. The lymphatic tissue that drains the area is also removed
and studied for signs of possible spread.

Usually the two ends of the colon are rejoined and can function normally after surgery.
If the cancer is in the rectum, a colostomy, an opening from the colon to the surface
of the body, may be necessary. However, this procedure is required only in about one
out of seven patients. Radiation may be used before or after surgery, & chemotherapy
may be given afterward, depending upon the stage and location of the cancer.

What can I do myself?

The best thing you can do if you have any symptoms of possible colon cancer is to see your doctor as soon as possible. Colon cancer is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early. Unfortunately, many people put off seeing their doctor until the cancer has reached an advanced stage when a cure is more difficult to achieve.

When should I see my doctor?

As soon as possible, if you notice any warning signs of colon cancer. Since the likelihood of colon cancer increase with age, the American Cancer Society recommends an annual examination for every one over the age od 40. People over age 50 should also have a proctosigmoidoscopy, in which the rectum and the colon are examined with a flexible lighted tuve, every 3 to 5 years.

What will the doctor do?
The doctor performs a digital rectal exam and a proctosigmoidoscopy. Tissue from any suspicious area may be removed (biopsied) for examination. Further examinations to confirm whether cancer is present may include a barium enema and a colonoscopy. The barium enema involves infusing a chalky substance into the rectum, in order to outline the colon on an x-ray. After the x-ray, the barium passes out of the recutm. In a colonoscopy, a long flexible tube is inserted into the colon so that it can be examined along its entire length. Biopsy samples also can be collected.

The course of colon cancer
Colon cancer often develops from a benign called an adenoma that grows from the surface of the bowel into the bowel channel. Adenomas range in size from barely visible to several inches wide. Cancer cells may grow inside them, and the larger adenoma, the more likely it is to contain them. A small colon cancer can be present for months or years without symptoms. The growth pattern and eventual symptoms differ depending on the location of the tumor. If it is not treated, the cancer can spreads to other organs and results in death.

Is colon cancer dangerous?
Yes. About half of those who have it die. More people could be cured if they were treated while the cancer was in an early stage.

What can I do to avoid colon cancer?
Dietary and lifestyle modifications are important. Some evidence suggests reducing fat and protein and increasing fiber and carbohydrates in the diet may help avoid colon cancer. however, screening and early detection are the keys to curing colon cancer. Everyone over the age of 50 should perform an annual stool gusiac test to detect occult, or hidden blood in stool. Home kits for this test are available in many drugstores.
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Colon cancer - Tumor in the descending section of the colon
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Colorectal tumor -Ascending colon section
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