Signs, causes and prevention of colorectal cancer (Colon Cancer)

There are many types of cancer worldwise. But colon cancer or colorectal cancer has emerged as one type of cancer killing many people around the world. 

Colorectal Cancer is  cancer of the large intestine (colon), which is the final part of your digestive tract. In most cases, this type of cancer start as as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps can become colon cancers. Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. It for this reason that the doctors always recommend strict and regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer in the early stages by identifying and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.

 

What are the symptoms of Colon/ colorectal cancer?

Among the many symptoms asccociated with colorectal cancer include:

  • A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

However, it should be noted that many people don't experience this signs and symptoms when colon/colorectal cancer while its in the early stages. Such that when this symptoms will appear, they will manifest or establish differently depending on the cancer's size and location in your large intestine.

 

When to see the doctor for colorectal cancer

 If you have experienced the signs and symptoms mentioned above particulary such as blood in your stool or an ongoing change in bowel habits, however this should not confused with signs and symptoms of H Pylori. It is generally recommended to start colon cancer screenings begin at age 50. However, based on other factors, your doctor my recommend or request for more frequent ealier screening if he realizes other risk factors, such as a family history of the disease.

 

What are the causes of Colon/ Colorectal Cancer?

Its interesting yet unfortunate that its not well established on what causes colon/colorectal cancer. However, Doctors know that colon cancer occurs when healthy cells in the colon develop errors in their DNA. Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But when a cell's DNA is damaged and becomes cancerous, cells continue to divide — even when new cells aren't needed. As the cells accumulate, they form a tumor.

Over time the cancer cells can grow to invade and destroy normal tissue nearby. And cancerous cells can travel to other parts of the body to form deposits there (metastasis).

 

Inherited gene mutations that increase the risk of colon cancer

Inherited gene mutations that increase the risk of colon cancer can be passed through families, but these inherited genes are linked to only a small percentage of colon cancers. Inherited gene mutations don't make cancer inevitable, but they can increase an individual's risk of cancer significantly.

The most common forms of inherited colon cancer syndromes are:

  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). HNPCC, also called Lynch syndrome, increases the risk of colon cancer and other cancers. People with HNPCC tend to develop colon cancer before age 50.
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). FAP is a rare disorder that causes you to develop thousands of polyps in the lining of your colon and rectum. People with untreated FAP have a greatly increased risk of developing colon cancer before age 40.

FAP, HNPCC and other, rarer inherited colon cancer syndromes can be detected through genetic testing. And if are concerned about your family history with cancer, you can always seek appointment with your doctor and get tested.

Association between diet and increased colon cancer risk

Studies of large groups of people have shown an association between a typical Western diet and an increased risk of colon cancer. A typical Western diet is high in fat and low in fiber.

 

Also Read: The most affordable cancer screening centres in Kenya

 

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:

  • Older age. The great majority of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50. Colon cancer can occur in younger people, but it occurs much less frequently.
  • African-American race. African-Americans have a greater risk of colon cancer than do people of other races.
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you've already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
  • Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk. Genetic syndromes passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon cancer. These syndromes include familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, which is also known as Lynch syndrome.
  • Family history of colon cancer. You're more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meat.
  • A sedentary lifestyle. If you're inactive, you're more likely to develop colon cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes and insulin resistance have an increased risk of colon cancer.
  • Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
  • Smoking. People who smoke may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
  • Alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol increases your risk of colon cancer.
  • Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers increases the risk of colon and rectal cancer.

ALSO READ: HOW TO TEST YOURSELF IF YOU HAVE TESTICULAR CANCER

Prevention

Make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk

You can take steps to reduce your risk of colon cancer by making changes in your everyday life. Take steps to:

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which may play a role in cancer prevention. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get an array of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
  • Stop smoking. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit that may work for you.
  • Exercise most days of the week. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. If you've been inactive, start slowly and build up gradually to 30 minutes. Also, talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are at a healthy weight, work to maintain your weight by combining a healthy diet with daily exercise. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy ways to achieve your goal. Aim to lose weight slowly by increasing the amount of exercise you get and reducing the number of calories you eat.

Colon cancer prevention for people with a high risk

Some medications have been found to reduce the risk of precancerous polyps or colon cancer. However, not enough evidence exists to recommend these medications to people who have an average risk of colon cancer. These options are generally reserved for people with a high risk of colon cancer.

Diagnosing Colon Cancer

If your signs and symptoms indicate that you could have colon cancer, your doctor may recommend one or more tests and procedures, including:

  • Using a scope to examine the inside of your colon. Colonoscopy uses a long, flexible and slender tube attached to a video camera and monitor to view your entire colon and rectum. If any suspicious areas are found, your doctor can pass surgical tools through the tube to take tissue samples (biopsies) for analysis and remove polyps.
  • Blood tests. No blood test can tell you if you have colon cancer. But your doctor may test your blood for clues about your overall health, such as kidney and liver function tests.

    Your doctor may also test your blood for a chemical sometimes produced by colon cancers (carcinoembryonic antigen or CEA). Tracked over time, the level of CEA in your blood may help your doctor understand your prognosis and whether your cancer is responding to treatment.

 

 


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Date published: 22/09/2017
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