Important Facts About Colon Cancer
As one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers, colon cancer affects nearly 100,000 new Americans each year, per American Cancer Society estimates. Serving New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut, Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) provides state-of-the-art care for patients diagnosed with colon cancer. To learn more, call RCCA at 844-346-7222.
What is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is a type of colorectal cancer – the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. – that starts as a growth, or polyp, in the lining of the colon. The two main types of polyps are:
- Adenomatous polyps (adenomas) – These kinds of polyps may change to cancer and are considered precancerous.
- Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps – More commonly found in the colon lining, these polyps are generally not precancerous.
Cancer of the colon starts in the innermost layer of the lining and can grow outward, affecting the blood vessels or lymph vessels. Over time, the cancer can spread, or metastasize, to lymph nodes and other organs in the body. The more a cancer spreads, the more difficult it is to treat. That’s why early detection through colon screenings is essential to promoting a positive prognosis.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
While being at an increased risk of colon cancer can be genetic, there are certain lifestyle-related factors that have also been linked to this form of cancer. Some common colon cancer risk factors include:
- Age – While men and women under the age of 50 can certainly develop colon cancer, it’s more common in people over 50 years old.
- Personal history – Whether you’ve had colorectal cancer before or you have a history of adenomatous polyps, you’re more likely to develop colon cancer. Also, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) puts you at a higher risk, as well.
- Family history – Nearly 1 in 3 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including colon cancer, are related to someone who has had the cancer. This can be due to inherited genes and shared environmental factors.
- Ethnic background – African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews are at the highest risk for getting colon cancer.
- Obesity – Being overweight increases the colon cancer risk in both men and women.
- Physical inactivity – If you’re inactive, you’re at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
- Diet – Diets high in red meats and processed meats and low in fiber are shown to be related to higher colon cancer risks.
Whether or not you have any of the above-mentioned risk factors, you may never develop colon cancer. However, if you do have a risk factor, it’s important to get screened on a regular basis, as recommended by your health provider.
Colon Cancer Screenings
Even if you don’t have any symptoms, screening tests for colon cancer can help aid early detection efforts. Through advancements in the medical community, these advanced tests have become even more accessible to the American public, helping make colon cancer one of the most curable forms of cancer. For those not at high risk, an annual colonoscopy is recommended starting at age 50. However, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or any other risk factor(s), your doctor may recommend that you begin having annual screenings before the age of 50.
The most common screening tests for colon cancer include:
- Colonoscopy – Using a colonoscope – a thin, lighted tube with an affixed camera – a doctor will examine the entire length of the colon to scope out possible polyps. This type of test can also be used to find tumors or anything else abnormal.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy– In this test, a doctor will use a sigmoidoscope, which looks similar to a colonoscope except for its width, to look at the inside of the rectum and a portion of the colon for any signs of abnormalities.
- CT colonography— An advanced type of commuted tomography (CT) scan, the CT colonography uses X-rays to form 3-D models. Your doctor can then use the 2-D or 3-D images to look for polyps or tumors. This test is much less invasive than the colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy. However, if an abnormality is detected, you may still need to have a colonoscopy or similar test.
Signs and Symptoms
At first, you may not have any signs or symptoms of colon cancer. However, as the cancer progresses, you may start to detect symptoms, such as:
- Changes in bowel habits, like constipation or diarrhea, that last longer than four weeks
- Blood in the stool
- Frequent abdominal discomfort, including gas, pain, cramps and bloating
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic fatigue or tiredness
- Persistent feeling that you have to go
- Unexplained iron deficiency
If you notice these or any other signs and symptoms of colon cancer, talk to your doctor right away. They might recommend a colonoscopy or another type of colon screening test.
When it comes to treatment for colon cancer, the stage and type will determine your course of treatment. At RCCA, we use the following techniques for colon cancer:
No matter how far the cancer has progressed, the team of oncologists at RCCA will devise a personalized treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.
Receive the Highest Standard of Care
From the moment you have you first appointment at one of RCCA’s 30 locations, you’ll experience quality care that only our highly trained oncologists can provide. We’ll take the time to help you understand your diagnosis and your options, so you and your doctor can devise the best treatment plan for your unique situation. You’ll also have access to clinical trials, putting you at the forefront of innovations in the field of colon cancer care.
To learn more about colon cancer treatment at RCCA or to schedule an appointment, reach out to us at 844-346-7222.