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Colon Cancer

Ans.: Colon Cancer is a disease in which normal cells in the lining of the colon or rectum begin to change, start to grow uncontrollably, and no longer die. These changes usually take years to develop; however, in some cases of hereditary disease, changes can occur within months to years. Both genetic and environmental factors can cause the changes. Initially, the cell growth appears as a benign (noncancerous) polyp that can, over time, become a cancerous tumor. If not treated or removed, a polyp can become a potentially life-threatening cancer. Recognizing and removing precancerous polyps before they become cancer can prevent colorectal cancer.

The Colon and rectum make up the large intestine, which plays an important role in the body's ability to process waste. The colon makes up the first 5 to 6 feet of the large intestine, and the rectum makes up the last 6 inches, ending at the anus.

The Colon has four sections. The ascending colon is the portion of the colon that extends from a pouch called the cecum (the start of the large intestine into which the small intestine empties) on the right side of the abdomen. The transverse colon crosses the top of the abdomen. The descending colon takes waste down the left side. Finally, the sigmoid colon at the bottom takes waste a few more inches downward to the rectum.

Colon Cancer can begin in either the colon or the rectum. Cancer that begins in the colon is called Colon Cancer, and cancer that begins in the rectum is called rectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer often begins in polyps, noncancerous growths that may develop on the inner wall of the colon and rectum, as people get older. There are several forms of polyps. Adenomatous polyps, or adenomas, are growths that may become cancerous and can be detected with a colonoscopy. One way to prevent colorectal cancer is to detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous. About 10% of colon polyps are flat and hard to detect through colonoscopy, unless a dye is used to highlight them. These flat polyps have a high risk of becoming cancerous, regardless of their size.

Ans.: By being alert to the symptoms of colorectal cancer, it may be possible to detect the disease early, when it is most likely to be treated successfully. Many people with colorectal cancer do not have any symptoms until the disease is advanced, so people need to be screened regularly.

People with colorectal cancer may experience the following symptoms. Sometimes, people with colorectal cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom on this list, please talk with your doctor and ask that a colonoscopy be scheduled so that the underlying reason(s) for the symptom can be found.

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Bright red or very dark blood in the stool
  • Stools that look narrower or thinner than normal
  • Discomfort in the abdomen, including frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and cramps
  • Weight loss with no known explanation
  • Constant tiredness or fatigue
  • Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia (low number of red blood cells)

Ans.: There are two inherited conditions which carry a substantially higher risk of Colon Cancer. In Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, affected family members develop thousands of small benign growths, called polyps, in the large intestine. Before the age of 40, one or more of these polyps will develop into a bowel cancer. In Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (also called Lynch Syndrome), patients develop cancer of the bowels and other organs, usually at an early stage. However, these conditions are very rare and only cause one in twenty cases of bowel cancer. Overall, the risk of bowel cancer doubles if you have a close relative (parent, bother or sister) with this cancer.