Colon Cancer, Does Genetics Play A Role?
Colon cancer is a relatively common type of cancer, with an estimated 95,270 new cases and about 52,400 deaths from colon cancer each year in the United States. Cancer can be considered at two different stages- colon or rectal cancers that have spread to nearby lymph nodes and colon or rectal cancers that have spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.
Although colon cancer may seem like a disease linked solely to our environment and heredity, new research shows genes also play a role. Scientists estimate cancer results from an interaction between environmental factors such as diet and bacterial flora in the colon and inherited forms of colon cancer. It is possible to inherit a genetic predisposition for cancer. However, scientists have yet to pinpoint one gene responsible for cancer in all cases.
In the early stages, colon cancer usually does not cause any symptoms and may even go undetected until it has already progressed into an advanced state, making cancer one of the deadliest cancers when it reaches this stage because a cure may no longer be possible in patients in whom cancer remains undiagnosed until an advanced stage. The most common signs and symptoms include:
– Rectal bleeding or blood in the colon and stool (feces)
– A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
– Abdominal cramps and pain may come and go, either with or without a fever. Several tests can help detect colon cancer; however, it is essential to remember these tests do not necessarily indicate cancer. These tests include:
Digital rectal exam (DRE) – The doctor inserts an ungloved lubricated finger into the rectum to assess any abnormalities. One of the significant concerns about colon cancer is the amount of time for colon cancer symptoms to appear. Doctors recommend that everyone who turns 45 years of age have a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer. This colon cancer screening test is highly accurate. It can help diagnose colon cancer in the early stages when colon cancer is more likely to be cured.
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – A stool sample is tested to detect signs of blood that may not be visible to the naked eye.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) – During this procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube into your rectum and lower colon and then uses special lenses attached to the end of the scope to examine the inner lining of your colon.
Colonoscopy: During a colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a colonoscope-a thin, flexible tube equipped with special lenses and a light source-into your rectum. The colonoscope allows the doctor to examine your entire colon for abnormal areas.
CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) – This test combines standard colon x-rays with computer technology that provides detailed images of both soft tissues and bone during one examination.
Is it possible to inherit a genetic predisposition for colon cancer? It is possible to inherit a genetic predisposition for colon cancer. However, scientists have yet to pinpoint one gene responsible for colon cancer in all cases. Scientists estimate colon cancer results from an interaction between environmental factors (diet and bacterial flora in the colon) and inherited forms of colon cancer.
When colon cancer is detected early, cancer may be successfully treated with surgery or other treatments. When cancer has progressed to an advanced stage, the prognosis worsens, and a cure may no longer be possible. To diagnose cancer as early as possible, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with cancer symptoms and perform screening tests at regular intervals. If you have any of these symptoms, please see your doctor immediately. Visit your physician regularly for a digital rectal exam (DRE) and fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Also, consider a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years starting at age 50.