Not feeling 100% and wondering about the early warning signs and symptoms of colon cancer? If you have reason to be anxious — perhaps because it runs in the family, or a friend has had it so you’re getting nervous — then it’s smart to get the facts so you can make an informed decision.
Colon cancer begins in a person’s large intestine (also known as the colon). Located in the final part of the digestive tract, the colon attaches to the rectum, where the cancer frequently spreads. As such, the disease is also referred to as colorectal cancer on occasion.
Colon cancer typically begins with the formation of small, benign clusters of cells known as polyps within the large intestine. These polyps can be small and may cause few (if any) symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screenings for polyps in the colon. Left untreated, these benign growths can mutate into cancerous tumors.
So, what are some of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer? And how can we treat this nasty disease? Keep reading to learn more.
According to Mayo Clinic, “doctors aren’t certain what causes most colon cancers.” However, there are several risk factors that researchers believe contribute to its development. They include:
- Older age (a majority of colon cancer patients are older than 50)
- Personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease
- Family history of colon cancer, especially if a blood relative has had the disease
- Inherited syndromes
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Radiation therapy to treat other forms of cancer
Additionally, the Mayo Clinic reports that African-Americans are at greater risk of colon cancer than other racial groups in the United States.
If you are at risk of one or several of these symptoms, it is essential that you seek regular colon cancer screenings. The earlier you discover the signs, the easier it is to treat them.
Many with colon cancer will not experience any symptoms during the early stages. And depending on the cancer’s size and location, symptoms can vary. Still, the most common symptoms of colon cancer include:
- Chronic diarrhea, constipation, a change in stool consistency or any other persistent change in your bowel habits
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, like cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Prevention and Treatment
Doctors recommend that people with an average risk of colon cancer begin seeking regular screenings around the age of 50. However, those at higher risk of the disease ought to seek screenings earlier than that. As Healthline explains, “an early diagnosis of colorectal cancer gives you the best chance of curing it.”
Screening methods include fecal tests, blood tests, colonoscopies, X-rays, and CT scans. Consult with your doctor to determine the best screening method for you. A search of local doctors will help you find the right physician — and who takes your insurance or fits your budget.
As for treatment, the exact method that your doctor recommends will depend on your personal health. Depending on your circumstances, the doctor may recommend:
- Surgery to remove polyps or tumors
- Chemotherapy to kill off cancerous cells
- Targeted treatment through the use of particular drugs
Though a diagnosis of any cancer can be troubling, colon cancer has a fairly high 5-year survival rate. In fact, 63% of people who receive treatment for colon cancer will live at least another 5 years after diagnosis. Once again, this illustrates the importance of frequent screenings and early action. If you can target the cancer early on, you tremendously improve your likelihood of surviving.