Colon cancer, also known as colon neoplasm, colonic adenocarcinoma, or colorectal cancer, is a disease that develops in the colon or rectum. The colon is one of two parts of the large intestine. The colon absorbs water and any nutrients from the waste material left over after digestion. If untreated, it can lead to death.
What causes colon cancer?
One possible risk factor for developing colon cancer is chronic constipation. Another factor that increases your chances of getting cancer is ulcerative colitis. According to MedlinePlus, this inflammatory bowel disease causes sores (ulcers) to form on the lining of the rectum and colon. Genetics may also trigger this condition; having a family history of colon cancer increases your risk. Other risk factors include age, gender, and ethnicity. According to MedlinePlus, men over the age of 50 are at higher risk than women. According to American Family Physician, black Americans have double the rate as white Americans due to lower screening rates among African-Americans or inadequate access to colonoscopy procedures or other preventive screenings.
Symptoms of colon cancer
The symptoms of colon cancer often do not appear until the disease is in later stages. The first symptoms may be a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, abdominal discomfort/pain, and rectal bleeding, explains MedlinePlus. In addition, you may experience fatigue and weight loss. As it advances beyond early stages, symptoms may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or pain in the abdomen.
Can colon cancer be prevented?
You can reduce your risk of colon cancer by making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and avoiding processed meats. According to American Family Physician, it is 32 percent more common among smokers than nonsmokers, and it increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Processed meats containing nitrates or petroleum products increase your risk. If you eat meat, choose poultry instead of red meat since it has less saturated fat and calories than beef and pork. Eating a plant-based diet consisting primarily of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes reduces your risk. Be sure to drink alcohol moderately since it has been linked to excessive alcohol intake, especially in men. According to The Oncology Nurse, it is less common among women than men, which may be due to fewer colonoscopies or screenings for colon cancer women receive compared with their male counterparts.
How do you prevent colon cancer?
To reduce your risk of colon cancer, consider the following:
– eat a healthy diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables
– get regular checkups and follow your physician’s recommendations for colon cancer screening tests such as colonoscopy
– quitting smoking and avoiding processed meats
– reduce alcohol intake to moderate levels (one drink per day for women; two drinks per day for men)
– exercise regularly
How to treat colon cancer
If colon cancer is found early, a doctor will likely recommend removing the tumor via surgery. Depending on your specific case and health care team, your doctor may suggest additional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy after colon surgery. In some cases, doctors may remove the colon and lymph nodes in the lower abdomen to prevent the recurrence of colon cancer. If it has spread to other organs or parts of your body, treatment methods focus on decreasing the risk of colon cancer returning and maximizing quality of life. Make sure you follow all recommendations from physicians and ask any questions you have about recovery options for colon cancer treatment.