What is colon cancer?
In simple terms, colon cancer is cancer that invades the large intestine. The colon is important to human functioning because it controls the digestive tract (how food is processed through the body). Some individuals may be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, which is cancer of the colon and rectum.
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
Symptoms of colon cancer often do not appear until later stages of illness. However, if you notice any of the below symptoms, call your doctor. These symptoms are copied from the Mayo Clinic website.
- A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
- 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
Please visit the Mayo Clinic website for more information here:
Early Screening and Intervention saves lives.
Colon cancer usually begins with polyps. Polyps are small, non-cancerous cells that grow in the colon. Polyps are easily detectable through a routine procedure called a colonoscopy. The American Cancer Society suggests that patients should begin routine colon cancer screenings beginning at the age of 50 because early intervention significantly increases your chances of recovery. In fact, 90% of those diagnosed and treated with colon cancer in the earliest stages lived for five years or longer after their diagnosis.
While men and women are equally likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer, older adults and African Americans are most likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer. As a whole, African Americans are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer than any other population.
Risk factors for colon cancer include family history, age, drinking habits, tobacco consumption, weight gain, inactive lifestyle and diet. Diagnoses of conditions such as polyps, Crone’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and diabetes increases your risk for colon cancer.
Dietary changes that are helpful include diets that are low in fat and high in fiber. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are important staples in a low fat, high fiber diet. Drinking plenty of water and reducing your intake of red meat may also lower your risk of colon cancer.
Available testing for colon cancer
Most patients are diagnosed with colon cancer as the result of a colonoscopy. However, further testing may be required and may include a biopsy, molecular testing, blood test, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound or X-Ray.
Resources for patients and family
- Colectoral Cancer Alliance Patient and family support group chat
- Cancer Care Online Support Group
- Cancer Center Local Resource Connection
- Cancer Care Counseling: offers free counseling to patients and family members. 800 813-4673
- Cancer Support Community affiliate: Georgia Chapter providing local resource connection. 404 843-1880
- Cancer Support Community: offers support groups and resource connection over the phone and through website chat feature. 888 793-9355 Hours: 8AM to 9PM Monday thru Friday and 9-5 Saturday and Sunday