Colon Cancer

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Cancer that develops in the rectum or colon is referred to as colorectal cancer. Specifically, those cancers that develop in the rectum are referred to as rectal cancer, while those that develop in the colon are referred to as colon cancer. Rectal and colon cancer have much in common in terms of their characteristics and together they impact hundreds of thousands of men and women every year. In fact, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. among men and women (excluding skin cancers).

Colon cancer generally begins with small, benign clumps of cells known as adenomatous polyps. Slowly, over many years, these polyps can grow into cancer. However, not all polyps do. The adenomatous polyps are considered pre-cancerous, while hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps are typically considered non pre-cancerous. Regardless, hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps are watched by doctors and they are considered to signify a greater risk for someone to eventually develop adenomatous polyps and colon cancer.

Polyps themselves – and even early stages of colon cancer – typically produce few if any symptoms. Regular screenings help to identify polyps. But you should consult a doctor for a screening if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Gas
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Blood in Stool
  • Changes in Bowel Movements

Colon cancer risk increases with factors such as:

  • History of Colon Cancer
  • Family History of Polyps and Colon Cancer
  • Age
  • Diet
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory Intestinal Conditions
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Inherited Syndromes
  • Growth Hormone Disorder
  • Obesity
  • Radiation Therapy for Cancer
  • Alcohol Use

Screenings

Colon cancer screenings can detect polyps before they become cancerous and should begin at the age of 50, although it may be recommended that your screenings start earlier due to your risk factors.

Diagnostic procedures and screenings include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Stool Blood Test
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
  • Barium Enema

Some people may be worried or embarrassed by colon screenings but we’re happy to work with you to prepare you for your procedure and answer any questions. Our goal is to make you as comfortable as possible.

Diagnosis & Stages of Cancer

If, through diagnostic procedures, you are diagnosed with colon cancer, there will be additional tests such as a chest x-ray or an abdominal CT scan in order to identify your stage of colon cancer. The stage will determine your course of treatment. The following are the stages of colon cancer:

  • Stage 0. This is the earliest stage of colon cancer in which the cancer has not grown past the inner layer – known as the mucosa – of the colon or rectum.
  • Stage 1. In this first stage, while the cancer has not spread beyond the rectum or colon wall, it has grown through the inner layer, the mucosa.
  • Stage 2. At this stage, the cancer has grown through or into the rectum or colon wall but has not spread into the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3. At this third stage, the cancer has reached the lymph nodes but has not moved into other parts of the body.
  • Stage 4. At this fourth stage, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as to other organs.
  • Recurrent. This refers to the return of cancer following treatment. Once your stage of colon cancer has been determined, your course of treatment will be planned. There are three primary treatment options for colon cancer:

Treatment Options

  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted Drug Therapy

Early diagnosis of colon cancer dramatically improves the chances for cure. Make an appointment with our team to discuss scheduling your screening.

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