- Stage colon cancer: Known also as carcinoma in situ. Here, abnormal cells are only found in the inner lining of the colon or the rectum.
- Stage 1 colon cancer: At this stage, cancer has infiltrated the lining (or mucosa) of the colon or rectum, and may have spread to the muscle layer. However, it is yet to spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
- Stage 2 colon cancer: In stage 2, cancer has gotten to the walls of the colon or rectum, or has gone through the walls to nearby tissues but yet to affect the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3 colon cancer: A stage 3 colon cancer has spread to the lymph nodes but not yet gotten to other parts of the body.
- Stage 4 colon cancer: A stage 4 colon cancer has gotten to other distant organs; like the liver or lungs.
- Colonoscopy: The insertion of a long, flexible tube fitted with a camera on one end, into the rectum to examine the inside of the colon.
- Double-contrast barium enema: This is an X-ray procedure, which uses a liquid known as barium to obtain clearer images of the colon than a standard X-ray. This technique requires fasting for several hours.
- Fecal testing: This is used to detect hidden blood in the stool.
- CT scan: This provides a detailed image of your colon.
- Blood tests: To get a better idea of any underlying condition. For instance, liver function tests and complete blood counts help rule out other diseases and disorders.
- Chemotherapy; the use of cytotoxic drugs to destroy cancerous cells.
- Radiation therapy; the use of high-energy X-rays to put an end to cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy; the use of highly specialized meds to target the proteins in cancerous cells to prevent them from growing.
- Immunotherapy; using the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
- Surgery: In the earliest stages of colon cancer, it may be possible to remove cancerous polyps through surgery, and if the polyps were yet to attach to the walls of the bowel, there’s the likelihood of an excellent outlook. However, if cancer has spread to the bowel walls, a portion of the colon or rectum may have to be removed along with any neighboring lymph nodes. Surgical techniques that may be carried out are – laparoscopic surgery, palliative surgery, colectomy, and endoscopy.
Usually, colon cancer does not present with symptoms, especially when it’s still in the early stages. If, however, symptoms present during the early stages, they are:
- Changes in stool colour and shape, like a narrowed stool.
- Presence of blood in the stool.
- Bleeding from the rectum.
- Excessive gas.
- Abdominal cramps and pain.
Late stage symptoms (Stage 3 colon cancer or stage 4 colon cancer symptoms)
Colon cancer symptoms are more manifest in the late stages (3 and 4). In addition to the above mentioned symptoms, one might also experience;
- Excessive fatigue and unexplained weakness.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Changes in the stool, lasting longer than a month.
- Feeling like your bowels won’t/don’t completely empty.
If colon cancer eventually spreads to other parts of the body, the following symptoms may also be experienced;
- Swelling of the hands or feet.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Chronic headaches.
- Blurry vision.
- Bone fractures.
The exact causes of colon cancer are still being studied by researchers.
In general, however, cancer may be caused by genetic mutations; either inherited or acquired. These mutations does not guarantee the development of colon cancer, but they increase the risks.
Usually, cells follow an orderly process of growth, division, and death. However, cancer develops when cells grow and divide uncontrollably, and when they do not die at the normal point in their life cycle.
Most cases of colon cancer originate from noncancerous tumors called adenomatous polyps. These form on the inner walls of the large intestine.
Cancerous cells may spread from malignant tumors to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
These cancer cells can grow and invade healthy tissue nearby and throughout the body in a process called metastasis. The result is a more serious, less treatable condition.
How to prevent colon cancer.
The following steps can be taken to reduce colon cancer risk;
- Reduce the amount of red meat you eat.
- Avoid processed meats, for example hot dogs and deli meats.
- Eat more plant based foods.
- Decrease dietary fat.
- Exercise daily.
- Lose weight, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking and alcohol consumption.
- Limit stress.
- Properly manage pre-existing diabetes.
Are there any risk factors of colon cancer?
Yes. The following factors may increase the risk of colon cancer;
- Older age; 5o years and above.
- Race; African-Americans are at a greater risk of colon cancer than people of other races.
- History of colorectal cancer or polyps.
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions.
- Family history of colon cancer.
- Low-fibre, high-fat diet.
- A sedentary lifestyle.
- Smoking and alcohol consumption.
- Radiation therapy for cancer.
What’s the survival rate for colon cancer?
The chances of survival is quite good. If the cancer is yet to spread outside the colon or rectum, there’s a likelihood of 90% chances to survive beyond 5 years after diagnosis.
If a scenario whereby it spreads to nearby tissues and lymph nodes, the 5 year survival rate is 71%. If it gets to distant sites in the body, the 5 year survival rate is 14%.
Are there any lifestyle remedy of colon cancer?
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Stop smoking and alcohol consumption.
- Regular exercise.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
How many types of colon cancer exists?
The point of origin serves as their identity.
- Adenocarcinoma, a form of colon cancer that starts from the adenocarcinoma.
- Lymphomas, from the lymph nodes or in the colon first.
- Carcinoids, which begins in hormone-making cells within the intestines.
- Sarcomas, which starts in soft tissues; such as muscles in the colon
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumours, which usually start from the digestive tract, but rarely in the colon.