Though cancer is the most dangerous disease, yet gone are the days when there was no treatment for cancer. In today’s era, science has left no stone unturned to make impossible possible. Every type of cancer is now curable in case it is diagnosed at time, before reaching the last stage. Early diagnosis is the only way that makes possible your survival. That is why it is said that have you routine checkup after each few months. If symptoms are observed then they must be readily reported to the doctor. We will see the symptoms of colon cancer and signs of colon cancer in a while. Today science has succeeded in developing such technologies and instrument that has somewhat increased the life span of cancer patients. Moreover it has provided us with much better diagnosis and treatment methodologies and therapies respectively. Before getting into detail of symptoms, we will see what causes a person to suffer from colon cancer.
What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is a type of cancer where cancer develops in colon. It has many features in common with rectum cancer.
Subtypes of colon cancer:
Following are the sub types of colon cancer:
- Stage I:
At this stage, your colon cancer has grown to the superficial lining (mucosa) of the colon or to the rectum but it has not yet spread beyond the colon wall or rectum wall.
- Stage II:
At this stage, your colon cancer has grown to or through the wall of the colon or rectum but it has not yet spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III:
At this stage, your colon cancer has invaded to nearby lymph nodes but it is not yet affecting other parts of your body.
- Stage IV:
At this stage, your colon cancer has spread to distant areas, such as other organs like for instance to liver or to lung.
Causes of colon cancer:
Exact cause of colon cancer in some cases is not known, but most common causes of colon cancer are listed below:
- Alteration of healthy colon cells.
- Uncontrolled cell growth.
- Polyps that exist in intestine. It might be due to
- Hyperplasic polyps.
- Inflammatory polyps.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer:
Colon cancer signs and symptoms are as follow:
- Diarrheaand constipation
- Changes in stool
- Narrow stools
- Rectal bleeding.
- Blood in the stool.
- Pain, cramps, or gas in the abdomen
- Pain during bowel movements
- Continual urges to defecate
- weight loss
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Iron deficiency.
Risk factors of colon cancer:
Following are the risk factors of colon cancer:
- Your race.
- History of colorectal cancer or polyp.
- Inflammation in intestine.
- Inherited syndrome.
- Colon cancer family history.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Low fiber and high fat diet.
- Radiation therapy.
Age: Most of the people who are diagnosed with colon cancer are of age older than 50. Though colon cancer occurs in younger people, it occurs much less frequently in them.
Your race: African and Americans have a much greater risk of colon cancer as compare to the people from some other race.
History of colorectal cancer: If you have already suffered from colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, then you have a greater risk of developing colon cancer in the future.
Inflammation in intestine: Chronic inflammatory diseases of colon, like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease increase your risk of developing colon cancer.
Inherited syndromes: Genetic syndromes passes through generations of your family and it can increase your risk of developing colon cancer. These syndromes are familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, which is also called as Lynch syndrome.
Colon cancer family history: You are more likely to suffer from colon cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with this disease. And If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even much greater that you may develop it. Sometimes, connection may not be hereditary or genetic. Rather, cancers within the same family may result from shared exposure to an environmental carcinogen and from diet or lifestyle factors.
Low fiber and high fat diet: Colon cancer and rectal cancer may have some relation with a diet that is low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Research regarding this area has mixed results. Some type of studies found that an increased risk of colon cancer occurs in people who eat diets that are high in red meat.
Sedentary lifestyle: If you are inactive, then you are more likely to suffer from colon cancer. However, getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of suffering from colon cancer.
Diabetes: People who are suffering from diabetes and have insulin resistance, they may have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
Obesity: People who are obese or fat have an increased risk of developing colon cancer and an increased risk of dying because of colon cancer when they are compared with people considered normal in weight.
Smoking: People who are involved in smoking cigarettes, they have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
Alcohol: To much use or alcohol may increase your risk of developing colon cancer..
Radiation therapy for cancer: If you have been put on radiation therapy that was directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers may, it may increase the risk of your developing colon cancer.
Types of colon cancer:
Following are the types of colon cancer:
- Signet ring cell.
- Neuroendocrine tumors.
- Aggressive Neuroendocrine tumors.
- Indolent Neuroendocrine tumors.
It is a malignant tumor formed from glandular structures in epithelial tissue in the colon.
It is a malignant tumor formed in smooth muscles in colon. It is the rarely occurring type of colon cancer. It accounts for 5 to 10% of soft tissue sarcomas. They are generally not responsive to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They remain dormant for long time and recur after long time. Best practice to treat them is to remove them surgically.
Causes of Leiomyosarcoma:
Following are the causes of Leiomyosarcoma:
- External radiation therapy.
- Phenoxy herbicides.
- Vinyl chloride.
- Immunosuppressive drug
- Alkylating agent
- Androgen-anabolic steroids
- Human immunodeficiency virus
- Human herpes virus type 8
- Chronically edematous armsafter radical mastectomy for breast cancer
Colorectal lymphomas are very rarely occurring cancers and are more likely to start occurring in the rectum than in the colon. Lymphomas that start somewhere else in the body, they are more likely to spread to the colon as compare to the rectum. There are two types of lymphoma i.e Hodgkin’s lymphoma(HL) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The Non Hodgkins lymphoma is about 0.5 percent of all colorectal cancers and has many forms.It can occur at any age .lymphoma is the most common cancer in young people. Lymphoma may develop in any part of the body, including the lymph nodes, bone marrow, blood or other organs. Causes of Lymphoma:
Following are the causes of lymphoma
- changes in the genes of a lymphocyte
- problems with the immune system
- certain infections
- a close relative having lymphoma
- previous treatment for cancer
- getting older
- viruses and bacteria
Signs and symptoms of Lymphoma:-
Lymphoma signs and symptoms are as follow:
- Swelling of lymph nodes, which may or may not be painless
• Unexplained weight loss
• Lack of energy
This type of colon cancer occurs very rarely. It results from a melanoma that starts somewhere else but then spread to the colon or rectum. Melanomas account for less than 2 % of colorectal cancers. If melanoma is diagnosed and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not diagnosed and treated earlier, it can advance and spread to other parts of the body as well. The most common places for it to spread are:
- lymph nodes
- Tummy (abdomen)
Causes of melanoma:
- Ultraviolet rays :-
Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The two types of UV rays that cause melanoma are UV-A and UV-B ray.
- Tanning beds:-
Tanning beds emit UV rays to speed up the skin tanning process. This has made them especially popular among young people. But, exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases a person risk of developing melanoma.
Melanoma signs and symptoms are as follow:
- Getting bigger
- Changing shape, particularly getting an irregular edge
- Changing color , getting darker, becoming patchy or multi shaded
- Loss of symmetry the two halves of your mole do not look the same
- Itching or painful
- Bleeding or becoming crusty
- Looking inflamed
Neuroendocrine tumors are neoplasms, hat arise from cells of the endocrine and nervous systems. Most of them are benign, whereas some of them are malignant. They commonly occur in the intestine, they are often called carcinoid tumors, they are also found in the lungs and in the rest of the body parts, from where they spread to colon and rectum.
Sign and Symptoms:-
Following are the sign and symptom of neuroendocrine tumors
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety attacks
- Rapid pulse
- Heart palpitations
- Clammy skin
- Low blood sugar
Types of Neuroendocrine tumors
- Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine tumors.
- Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine tumors.
- Pancreatic Neuroendocrine tumors.
- Pulmonary Neuroendocrine tumors.
Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine tumors:
Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine tumors are tumor that develops in gut. It then spreads to colon or rectum.
Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine tumors:
Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine tumors are tumor that occur in stomach and then spread to colon or rectum.
Pancreatic Neuroendocrine tumors:
Pancreatic Neuroendocrine tumors occur in pancreas, and it then spreads to colon or rectum.
Pulmonary Neuroendocrine tumors:
Pulmonary Neuroendocrine tumors are a type of tumor which occurs in lungs and then spread to colon or rectum.
Diagnosis of colon cancer:
If your symptoms indicate that you might be suffering from colon cancer. Your doctor will then recommend one or more tests and procedures which are as follow:
Colonoscopy uses a long and slender tube attached to a video camera and monitor to view your entire colon and rectum. If suspicious areas are found in colon, your doctor will pass surgical tools through tube to take tissue samples which is known as biopsies for analysis.
- CT colonography: This is also called virtual colonoscopy. It combines multiple CT scan images to create a complete picture of the inside of your colon. If you are unable to undergo colonoscopy, then your doctor may recommend virtual colonoscopy.
Treatment of colon cancer:
The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend largely on the stage of your cancer. The three primary treatment options are: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Surgery for early stage colon cancer:
If your cancer is small and it is localized in a polyp. Moreover it is in a very early stage. In such a case your doctor will be able to remove it completely by a colonoscopy. Polyps which are larger can be removed by using endoscopic mucosal resection. If your pathologist determines that it is likely that the cancer was completely removed previously, then there will be no need of additional treatment.
Polyps which can not be removed by colonoscopy can be removed by using laparoscopic surgery. In this surgery, your surgeon performs the operation by several small incisions in your abdominal wall, by inserting instruments which has camera attached to them. The purpose of attaching the camera to the instrument is to display the inner picture or video of your colon. The surgeon also takes samples from lymph nodes in the area where the cancer is located in order to examine them.
Surgery for invasive colon cancer:
If colon cancer that you are suffering from has grown into or through colon, your surgeon will recommend partial colostomy so that, the part of your colon that contains the cancer along with a margin of normal tissue on either side of cancer, will be removed. Lymph nodes are tested for cancer.
Surgeon is able to re connect the healthy portions of your colon. But when often it is not possible to re connect the healthy portion of colon and cancer is at the outlet of your rectum, in such a situation, you need to have a temporary or permanent colostomy. It involves to create an opening in wall of your bally from the portion of the remaining bowel for the elimination of body waste into the special bag. Most of times the colostomy is only temporary, which allows your colon time to heal after the surgery. While in some cases, colostomy is the permanent colostomy.
Surgery for advanced cancer:
If the colon cancer that you are suffering from, is advanced or your health is very poor, then in such a situation your surgeon will recommend an operation so that to relieve the blockage of your colon or other conditions is as to improve the symptoms. This type of surgery is not done to cure the colon cancer, but instead it is done to relieve colon cancer signs and symptoms of colon cancer, such as bleeding and pain.
In some cases where the cancer has spread only to the liver and if you are overall health is good, your doctor will recommend surgery to remove the cancerous lesion from the liver. Chemotherapy is used before or even after the surgery, which may improve your prognosis (outlook)..
It makes use of drugs so that it can destroy the cancer cells. It is commonly given after the surgery in case the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. It can help to reduce the risk of developing cancer .
It is also given to relieve the symptoms of colon cancer that has spread to the other parts of the body . Moreover It is also used to shrink the spreading of cancer. People who have rectal cancer, for them chemotherapy is mostly used along with the radiation therapy.
This type of therapy make use of the powerful energy sources such as X-rays, in order to kill those cancer cells that may remain after surgery, and to shrink large tumors before an operation is done ,so that they can be removed more easily and conveniently, or in order to relieve symptoms of colon cancer and rectal cancer.
Radiation therapy is very rarely used in early stage colon cancer, rather it is a routine part of treating rectal cancer, more specifically used if the cancer has penetrated to or through the wall of the rectum or has traveled to nearby lymph nodes. Radiation therapy, in combination with chemotherapy, will be used after the surgery to reduce the risk that the cancer may recur in the area of the rectum where it began again.
Targeted drug therapy:
Drugs that target specific defects that allow cancer cells to grow are available to people with advanced colon cancer, including bevacizumab, cetuximab, panitumumab and regorafenib. Targeted drugs can be given along with chemotherapy or alone. Targeted drugs are typically reserved for people with advanced colon cancer.
Some people are helped by targeted drugs, while others are not. Researchers are working to determine who is most likely to benefit from targeted drugs. Until then, doctors carefully weigh the limited benefit of targeted drugs against the risk of side effects and the expensive cost when deciding whether to use these treatments.
No such alternative treatments have been found yet to cure the colon cancer. Alternative treatments may help you to cope with the diagnosis of the colon cancer. Almost all people who are suffering from colon cancer experience some sort of distress. Commonly occurring colon cancer signs and symptoms of distress after the diagnosis may include sadness, anger, difficulty concentrating, difficulty in sleeping and the loss of appetite. Alternative treatments might help to redirect your thoughts, at least temporarily or for short period of time, so that it may give you some relief.
Alternative treatments that help to relieve distress include:
- Art therapy
- Dance or movement therapy
- Music therapy
- Relaxation exercises
Your doctor can refer you to professionals who can help you learn about and try these alternative treatments. Tell your doctor if you’re experiencing distress.
Prevention of colon cancer:
As we established the fact earlier that exact cause of colon cancer is not yet identified, but there are certain risk factors that had been identified. Prevention from colon cancer lies in reduction of the risk factors. Other preventions include:
Regular use of aspirin reduces the risk of colon cancer.
- Celecoxib (Celebrex):
This drug reduces the risk of pre cancerous polyps and relieves pain.
Surgery involves the entire removal of your colon in order to prevent cancer from spreading.
Survival rate of colon cancer:
Stage I cancer have a survival rate of 80-95 %. Stage II tumors have survival rates ranging from 55 to 80 %. Stage III colon cancer has almost 40 % chances of cure and a patient with stage IV tumor has only a 10 percent chance of a cure.
|Stage||5 year survival rate|
Those patients that suffer with stage IIIA or IIIB cancers have better survival rate than those with stage IIB cancers.
Statistics of colon cancer:
Colon cancer is the third most commonly occurring cancer in USA.