Colon cancer refers to cancer of the large intestine, which is part of the digestive system. If cancer is detected in the bottom few inches of the colon, it is considered rectal cancer. Since the two are so interconnected, they’re commonly grouped together and called colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer ranks third on the list of most common cancers in the United States. It is also the country’s second leading cause of cancer-related death. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the average American has a one in 20 chance of developing colorectal cancer at some point during his or her life.
Screenings and Symptoms
It often stems from noncancerous tumors called polyps. They are benign, but if left untreated, they can eventually grow into cancer. The best defense against polyps is to keep up with regular colonoscopies. This can be crucial when it comes to prevention. Experts at the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy say that colon cancer screenings for men and women should begin at age 50.
Certain symptoms are associated with colorectal cancer. Prolonged bowel irregularities like diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool could be signs. According to the ACS, an ongoing sensation of needing to have a bowel movement is also a red flag. Other symptoms include rectal bleeding/blood in the stool, abdominal pain, fatigue and unexplained weight loss. Many factors can contribute to the cause of colorectal cancer. Having a family history of the disease or a personal history of polyps appears to increase the odds. Obesity, physical inactivity, and diets high in red meat or processed food may also increase the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. In addition, 5 to 10 percent of cases are caused by inherited gene mutations.
When it comes to treatment, early-stage tumors might be entirely removed during a routine colonoscopy or other minimally invasive procedure. For advanced cases, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapies are commonly used.