Colorectal Cancer is a growing concern throughout the world. According to the American Cancer Society, “colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US”. Although cancer colorectal is a very serious and real problem, it is highly preventable.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
The large intestine is the long, muscular tube made up of the colon and rectum, where water is absorbed and waste material is stored. The rectum is the end of the large intestine, which connects to the anus. Colon cancer is a combined term used to refer to cancer of both the colon and rectum.
Colon Cancer usually begins as a small polyp. A polyp is a mass of extra tissue which develops on the inner lining of the colon. Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way, but when a mutation in the chromosome happens cells can divide and grow when not necessary. This unregulated growth can form polyps and cancer. These polyps occur when the chromosomes on the inner lining become damaged. Once damaged, the cell growth is uncontrolled, resulting in tissue masses (polyps).
Colon polyps are generally benign (non-cancerous) and are referred to as adenomas. Polyps can be easily removed through a procedure called a colonoscopy. However, if left unattended, polyps can become malignant (cancerous) over time.
What are the Colorectal Cancer Symptoms?
This lists a few of the symptoms of colorectal cancer. Symptoms may vary; however, many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms
- Change in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
- Red or dark blood in stools
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Abdominal pain, cramps, or gas
- Change in stool caliber
The Risk Factors of Colon Cancer
- Family history of colon cancer
- Family history of polyps
- Age >50
- High fat diet
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
How Is Colorectal Cancer Diagnosed?
Most of the time, a diagnosis of colon cancer can be made by performing a colonoscopy. After being given a sedative, your Dallas Gastroenterologist will perform the procedure in which a long, flexible, lighted tube is inserted through the rectum. By doing this, Dr. Kenneth Brown can get a look at the mucosal lining of the rectum and colon. During this procedure, Dr. Brown 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. The procedure is painless and usually only takes about 30 minutes to complete.
When Is It Time For A Colon Screening?
An appointment should be made with your gastroenterologist for a colon screening if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Even if you are currently having no symptoms and are 50 years of age or older, then you should schedule a colon screen every five years in order to ensure early detection of any precancerous polyps. If you have a history or family history of polyps, IBD, or colon cancer your doctor will suggest an earlier age to begin colon cancer screening.
What Is The Treatment For Colorectal Cancer?
If colon cancer is diagnosed, your Gastroenterology doctor 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.
Although colon cancer is a growing concern, it is the most preventable cancer of all cancers. Regular colon screens are recommended after the age of 50 in order to prevent the growth and spread of precancerous polyps. By living a healthy lifestyle of eating right, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular colon screens, your chances of developing colorectal cancer are greatly reduced.