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colon-cancer

Colon Cancer

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer, as the name suggests, is a malignancy that develops inside the large intestine, commonly referred to as the colon. All the cancer can affect people of any age group, it is more commonly found in elderlies. Colon cancer is also sometimes referred to as colorectal cancer, which is a combined term for colon cancer and rectal cancer. The cancer initially starts as small non-malignant polyps which become cancerous over time. As the polyps do not produce any major symptoms, doctors lay a lot of emphasis on regular screening.

What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?

Some of the most common symptoms associated with colon cancer include:

  • Frequent change in bowel habits and stool consistency
  • Traces of blood in the stools
  • Rectal bleeds
  • Severe abdominal cramps and discomfort
  • General body weakness and fatigue
  • Inability to pass stools properly
  • Unintended loss of weight

What causes colon cancer?

Although the exact cause of colon cancer is not known, it is believed to be a result of undesired mutations in the DNA of the cells lining the colon. These mutations compel the cells to grow and multiply uncontrollably, eventually resulting in the formation of a tumour. In the advanced stages, the cancerous cells can break free enter the bloodline, from where they metastasize to other parts of the patient's body

What are the various risk factors associated with colon cancer?

Various factors that elevate your risk of developing colon cancer include:

  • Age - Though the cancer can be diagnosed at any age, it is more common in people above 50 years of age
  • Inflammatory intestinal diseases - Chronic inflammatory diseases like Crohn's disease, which affect the colon, also put you at an increased risk of colon cancer
  • Inherited syndromes - There are certain inherited syndromes or genetic mutations which run in families. These include Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis.
  • Family history e of colon cancer - The risks of developing colon cancer are slightly elevated for people who have a family history of the same
  • Eating a diet which is low in fibre and high in fats - Some studies also suggest that the risks of colon cancer are high in peoples who eat red or processed meat
  • Diabetes - Colon cancer is more common in people who have diabetes or insulin resistance.
  • Radiation therapy - Colon cancer may also be triggered by radiation therapy that may be given to treat any other malignancy in your abdomen

Screening and diagnosis

Colon cancer cannot be diagnosed by physical examination or blood investigations. Instead, you may be recommended to undergo colonoscopy. This involves the use of a long and flexible device, known as a colonoscope, fitted with a camera on one of its ends. This helps to visualise the entire colon and rectum. The doctor may also collect some tissue samples for biopsy, during the procedure. These tissue samples are thoroughly examined for any traces of cancer.

Treatment

Surgery – The type of surgery depends upon the stage of the cancer and the extent to which it has spread.

Early-stage colon cancer can be treated using minimally invasive approaches such as:

  • Polypectomy, which involves the removal of localized polyps
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection, which involves the removal of larger polyps along with a small portion of tissues lining the colon
  • Laparoscopic surgery for removing the polyps via minimally invasive approach

Advanced-stage colon cancer requires more extensive approaches. These include:

  • Partial colectomy, which involves the removal of the section of the colon that has been affected by the cancer
  • Ostomy, which aims at creating a passage for the waste to leave your body
  • Lymph node removal, in case the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes

Chemotherapy – It involves the use of a combination of drugs, that are given orally or intravenously, to target and destroy rapidly-growing cancerous cells. Chemotherapy may be used in combination with other treatments to yield maximum results.

Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy is usually used to address recurring ovarian cancer by targeting certain weaknesses present in the cancer cells. Doctors usually conduct a biopsy to determine which targeted therapy is best suited for you.

Radiation therapy – It used x-ray beams of high intensity to target the cancerous cells. This may be given before the surgery, to reduce the size of the tumour, and after the surgery to destroy cancerous cells that were left behind during the surgery. These radiations may be given externally, using a special radiation machine, or from within, using certain radiation-emitting substances.

Immunotherapy – It involves the use of certain drugs that help to boost the body’s immune system and is usually recommended to patients with advanced anal canal cancer.

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