I wanted to help promote colon cancer awareness month by answering some of top Colon Cancer FAQs I found online. I’ve chosen 20 of the questions and hope that this information further educates anyone interested in learning more about this cancer.

While the Q&A information is important, the key point that I want to stress is that we essentially have the cure for colon cancer… GET SCREENED! Colonoscopy is the best screening exam for colon cancer and if everyone followed the screening guidelines it is estimated that the occurrence would be less than 90% of what it is currently – estimated 50k deaths in U.S. in 2018 due to colon cancer.

If you or someone you know is 50+ year of age, please ask them if they have been screened. Thank you in advance for helping to spread the awareness message.

To learn more, please visit my colon cancer page.

In health,

Kenneth Brown, MD

Colon Cancer FAQs

When is colon cancer awareness month?

March is designated as colon cancer awareness month. Since colon cancer is highly treatable when detected early, we hope that the increased awareness message in March helps to increase the colon cancer screening rate.

colon cancer statisticsWhat are colon cancer symptoms?

This lists a few of the symptoms of colorectal cancer. Symptoms may vary; however, many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms at all – change in bowel habits, blood in stool, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain and bloating.

Is colon cancer painful?

The symptoms of colon cancer that are associated with pain are typically belly distension or abdominal pain.

What causes colon cancer?

In most cases, it’s not clear what causes colon cancer. Doctors know that colon cancer occurs when healthy cells in the colon are damaged and create polyps.

What are colon polyps?

Colon polyps are growths on the inner lining of the colon and usually protrude into the colon. The cells on the lining of the colon normally mature and then die in a consistent fashion. However, when these cells are damaged they can alter this course by not dying and forming polyps.

It’s important to note that not all polyps are cancerous. In order to reduce your risk of getting colon cancer, your gastroenterologist will remove all polyps during colonoscopy and do a biopsy on the polyps to test for cancer. The result of the biopsy will dictate your risk of colon cancer the frequency of future colon cancer screenings.

Is colon cancer hereditary?

Inherited gene mutations that cause colon cancer can be passed amongst family members, but this occurrence is linked to only a small percentage of detected colon cancer. That being said, a family history does increase the risk of colon cancer and should be discussed with your doctor.

What causes colon cancer in young adults?

It is believed that this is primarily due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. Increasing rates of obesity and lack of activity amongst younger adults are key contributing factors.

What are colon cancer risk factors?

Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer are: 50+ years of age, African-American race, a personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps, intestinal conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, diabetes, an inactive lifestyle, obesity, smoking and a high-fat / low-fiber diet.

Can colon cancer be detected by a blood test?

A blood test cannot determine if someone has colon cancer. However, blood tests do let you doctor know more about your overall health.

What is the best way to detect colon cancer?

Colonoscopy is the best way to allow your doctor to determine if you have colon cancer. This exam allows the doctor to see a full view of the mucosal lining of the rectum and colon. During this procedure, the doctor may also take biopsies (tissue samples) or remove polyps. If polyps are removed or biopsies taken, these samples will be sent to a pathologist who will look for precancerous changes of the lining of the cells of the colon.

Can colon cancer spread?

Yes. Most commonly colon cancer spreads to the liver.

How is colon cancer treated?

If colon cancer is diagnosed, your gastroenterologist will refer you to the appropriate specialist to determine your next steps for treatment. The three primary options for treatment are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation depending on how severe the cancer is and where it is located.

What does colon cancer poop look like?

If you have colon cancer your stool or poop may take on different properties than a normal stool. These changes can include diarrhea, narrowing of the stool and blood in stool which can create a dark color.

Which foods prevent colon cancer?

Making certain dietary choices can lower your risk of colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (and low in red and processed meats) to lower colorectal cancer risk. Also, studies have found an increased risk for men with excess alcohol consumption (2+ drinks daily).

Does alcohol consumption cause colon cancer?

Consuming alcohol can increase one’s risk of getting colon cancer. Studies indicating this result note that men have a higher risk than women due to alcohol consumption and that men should not consume more than 2 drinks a day to lessen the chance that alcohol contributing to colon cancer.

What are the stages of colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer is graded in 4 stages. The grade is based on how much the cancer cells look like normal cells. Cells that look very different than normal cells are given a higher grade. If you have diagnosed with colon cancer, ask your doctor to explain the diagnosed stage or grade of your cancer.

How does colon cancer kill you?

Depending on how the cancer grows and how far along the cancer is, it can kill in different ways.   If the cancer grows locally and blocks the colon, it can actually cause an obstruction and prevent any waste from passing.  Like backed up pipes in plumbing; it will build up pressure and can rupture the colon.    

Colon cancers can also bleed, a lot!  Sometimes the tumors can grow into a blood vessel and cause hemorrhaging which can result in a heart attack or losing all your blood.

Those are two extreme things that can happen, but the more common way that colon cancer causes death is more of an insidious way.   Colon cancer can spread to other organs like the liver, and this can result in liver failure.  Eventually the cancer spreads throughout the body and this is called metastasis.

That is why I am so passionate about preventing colon cancer, but the above horrific issues are preventable.

Is colon cancer inoperable?

A surgical operation is the most common treatment for colon cancer. Surgical options for colon cancer are dependent on the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread. Also, surgery could delay the ability to get other life-prolonging treatments. These factors and other will be assessed with the patient when determining whether surgery is their best treatment options.

Are colon cancer and rectal cancer the same?

Colon cancer and colorectal cancer are believed to be the same thing.

Is there a cure for colon cancer?

While we don’t have a definitive cure for colon cancer, following the recommended screening guidelines with colonoscopy is the best way to lower your risk of possible occurrence. Colon cancer is the most preventable of all cancers and early detection is the key to beating this cancer.