The third most common type of cancer in the country, colon cancer occurs when tumors develop in the large intestine. Usually, this cancer originates from benign clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. These might or might not project any symptoms. Therefore, doctors recommend regular screening for detecting such polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
In the early stages of this condition, several patients might experience no symptoms. However, as the condition progress, the following signs and symptoms may emerge:
- Changes in bowel movement, including constipation, diarrhea, or consistency of the stool that typically lasts for more than a month
- Rectal bleeding
- A feeling that the bowel hasn’t completely emptied
- Unexplained weight loss
If one notices the following symptoms, they should seek a doctor’s counsel, especially if they already have a family history of the condition.
Unfortunately, researchers haven’t been able to determine the exact cause of colon cancer. However, studies have concluded that healthy cells in the colon are affected by newly developed errors in the DNA. Under normal circumstances, healthy cells are produced and divided in a systematic and controlled manner to keep the body functions running. However, when the DNA of a cell is damaged, it turns cancerous. Eventually, these cells incessantly start to multiply to form a tumor, invading and destroying the surrounding tissues. If the condition isn’t diagnosed in time, the cancerous cells travel and settle in the other parts of the body, that is, they metastasize.
Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are two forms of the inherited colon cancer syndromes. Also known as the Lynch syndrome, HPNCC amplifies the risk of colon and other forms of cancer. People with Lynch syndrome are more likely to develop colon cancer before the age of 50. FAP, on the other hand, is a form of a condition that causes one to develop thousands of polyps in the colon’s and rectum’s lining. If this condition is left untreated, it will significantly increase the risk of colon cancer before the age of 40.
Apart from the inherited syndromes, some of the additional risks are as follows:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Inflammatory digestive conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Poor diet, especially one with low fiber and high fat
- Exposure to radiation for cancer treatments
- People over the age of 50 years are at a higher risk of being affected by colon cancer, as also are those from the African-American race.
There isn’t a foolproof way of preventing colon cancer as the risk varies from person to person. However, getting regularly screened for this condition after the age of 40 can help one detect polyps or cancerous tumors at an early stage. Every type of screening option has its own advantages and disadvantages. One should consult their physician to understand which option will be the most feasible.
Following a healthy diet can help lower the inflammation levels in the colon, thereby preventing the formation of polyps and tumors. One should ideally include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean meat, and plenty of water in their everyday meals. Moreover, abstinence from smoking and drinking, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can help lower the risk of colon cancer.