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Colorectal Cancer – Know the Facts

March is Colectoral Cancer awarness month.  Do you know the symptoms, risks and precuations measure for colon cancer? If not, read through the article below to learn if you're a risk and what actions you can take to prevent colon cancer.

Colon cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). Such cancer is sometimes referred to as "colorectal cancer."  Other types of colon cancer can affect the colon. These include lymphoma, carcinoid tumors, melanoma, and sarcomas. these are rare. In this article, colon cancer refers to colon carcinoma only.

Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Early diagnosis, though, can often lead to a complete cure.

Almost all colon cancers start in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. When doctors talk about colorectal cancer, this is usually what they are talking about.

There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.  You have a high risk of colon cancer if you:

  • Are older than 60
  • Are African American of eastern European descent
  • Eat a a lot of red or processed meats
  • Colorectal polyps
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or Ulcerative colitis)
  • Have a family history of colon cancer
  • Have a personal history of breast cancer

Certain inherited diseases also increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Two of the most common are:

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome

Many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms. The following symptoms, however, may indicate colon cancer:

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other change in bowel habits
  • Narrow stools
  • Weight loss with no known reason

The death rate for colon cancer has dropped in the last 15 years. This may be due to increased awareness and screening by colonoscopy.

Colon cancer can almost always be caught by colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. Almost all men and women age 50 and older should have a colon cancer screening. Patients at higher risk may need earlier screening.

Colon cancer screening can often find polyps before they become cancerous. Removing these polyps may prevent colon cancer.

Changing your diet and lifestyle is important. Medical research suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce your risk of colon cancer.

 

References
Cunningham D, Atkin W, Lenz HJ, Lynch HT, Minsky B, Nordlinger B, et al. Colorectal cancer. Lancet. 2010;375:1030-1047.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines): Colon cancer. Version 2.2013. Available at http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/colon.pdf. Accessed November 16, 2012.
Smith RA, Cokkinides V, Brawley OW. Cancer screening in the United States, 2012: a review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and current issues in cancer screening. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:129-142.