Colon cancer refers to a form of cancer that affects the main part of the large intestine, commonly called the colon. Sometimes, colon cancer is grouped together with cancer that affects the other part of the large intestine, the rectum, and referred to as colorectal cancer.
Colon cancer is a fairly common cancer. It affects both men and women, and the risk for developing colon cancer goes up in everyone after age 50. Other risk factors for developing colon cancer include a family history of cancer or colon cancer specifically, and a history of developing colorectal polyps, or growths. People with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis also have a higher colon cancer risk, as do those who smoke or eat diets high in fat and low in fiber, folate and calcium.
Screening and Prevention
The best way to detect colon cancer early and prevent the development of life-threatening cancer is to be screened for the disease. Screening is generally recommended for people 50 and older, though those at higher risk may need it earlier in life. Various tests can screen for colon cancer, including a fecal occult blood test and a digital rectal exam. However, colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are screening methods that can not only detect cancer at an early stage but also find and remove any precancerous polyps.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer can be difficult to detect because the symptoms often overlap with other common medical conditions. When symptoms do occur, they’re usually related to the digestive tract. Common symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, bloody stools, narrower stools than usual or the feeling that your bowels are not completely empty. Colon cancer can also show itself with such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gas and painful cramps.
The primary method for treating colon cancer is surgery to remove the tumor. In some cases, this procedure can be done in a minimally invasive way with a long robotic arm that enters the body to remove the tumor. Other times, open surgery is required.
Often, additional treatments are needed to kill cancer cells at the site of the tumor or in surrounding tissues. These treatments may be in the form of radiation therapy, chemotherapy or biological therapy
SOURCES: American Cancer Society; U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Having Higher Concentrations of Vitamin D May Protect Against Colon Cancer, Study Finds.
The American Cancer Society updates its guidelines for colon cancer screening
Colonoscopy prevents death from colon cancer
Should screening for colon cancer begin at the age of 45?
Americans employed in smaller businesses often lack insurance coverage, study finds
Researchers think chronic inflammation in gastrointestinal tract may be driving force
New biologic could help drive down the cost of care, agency says
Belly fat after menopause may boost risk of lung, gastrointestinal cancers, researchers report
Health coverage surged in states that expanded Medicaid, research finds
Increase whole grains and exercise, limit booze and processed meats: report
Eating whole grains daily reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, study finds
Tool might one day allow more complete removal of malignant tissue, less time on operating table
Plant-based diet could help avoid malignancies, study suggests
Researchers move 'a step forward,' assessing DNA fragments for colon, breast, ovarian and lung tumors
Colon cancer mortality is increasing among Caucasian adults under 55, new study finds
Uptick has researchers puzzled and questioning screening guidelines
Concerns are growing about weight's impact on development of chronic disease, researchers say
Being overweight or obese in adolescence may increase the risk of colon cancer in adulthood, study finds
People with coverage for virtual colonoscopy are more likely to get tested for colon cancer, study finds
Study followed more than 150,000 people for 45 years
Agency head calls persistent geographic gap a 'significant public health problem'
But the gene flaw is rare, affecting less than 1 percent of typical cancers, researchers say