Colon cancer

Published: August 18, 2009

Like many other cancers, it does not have severe symptoms, so that a patient may not notice many changes in their body until the tumors develop. Tumors located in different parts of the bowel will produce different symptoms, however some of the general symptoms include:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Incomplete defecation
  • Blood in the stool
  • Black stool (Melena)
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Abdominal pain
  • Anaemia (iron deficiency)
  • Weight loss

This common form of cancer affects many people across the globe. The earlier a patient goes to a doctor with symptoms, the earlier the cancer may be detected, which gives it a higher chance for cure.


There are different methods to detect colorectal cancer. One includes Digital Rectal Exam, a procedure in which a doctor inserts his gloved finger to feel for abnormalities. This method is only effective if tumors have developed to a size that may be felt.

Colorectal cancer endoscopy

Another, more effective procedure is endoscopy. The simple version of this procedure is called sigmoidoscopy, which entails a doctor inserting a probe with a light and small camera into the rectum and lower colon region to search for growths, also known as polyps. A colonoscopy, also a probe with a light and small video camera, is more effective, as it searches the entire colon for polyps, and allows doctors to remove them immediately throughout the procedure.

The tissue samples that are removed (biopsies) are then sent to a laboratory.

If colon cancer is detected at an early stage, it is highly curable. The most common treatment plan includes surgery and chemotherapy – in some cases even radiation therapy. If the cancer consists of only polyps, these can be removed easily during a colonoscopy. If the tumors have grown however, a surgery where the section of the colon where the tumor is located will be removed is necessary.

If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastases), different procedures are necessary.  This later stage of colon cancer is much more difficult to cure, and involves different types of surgery and treatment. (Click here to find out more about colon cancer and treatments)

Some of the risk factors of colorectal cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Age – other older a patient is, the more likely they are to develop colon cancer
  • Food – a diet high in red meat and low in poultry, fish and vegetables increases the risk
  • Alcohol
  • Genes
  • Inactivity – those who exercise less have a higher chance of getting colon cancer
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

To read more about colon cancer, click here.

Celebrities who have been diagnosed with colon cancer include Sharon Osbourne.

Farrah Fawcett died of anal cancer in 2009.

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Published August 18, 2009 by in Health Conditions
Tags: , , colon cancer, colonoscopy,

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