There are those types of cancers that don’t rear their ugly head until the condition is well advanced and life-threatening—colon cancer is one of these. This is why medical experts strongly urge people to be proactive and get themselves screened for colon cancer even in the absence of obvious symptoms. When caught early, colon cancer is easy to treat; but when it reaches the advanced stages, the survival rates drop dramatically. Today, colon cancer remains one of the most deadly types of cancers out there—the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in the USA.
Most incidents of colon cancer begin when a cyst grows in the surface of the large intestine (colon), called adenomatous polyps. These polyps would be small in the beginning and will produce few symptoms, but most of the time they produce no symptoms at all. This polyp is a benign growth that will continue to grow because of the abnormal and rapid production of cells in the area, and in time may turn into cancer.
Symptoms will usually be pronounced once the patient is in a more advanced cancer state. Symptoms will include changes in bowel habits which can include constipation, diarrhea, or loose stools. This will continue on for weeks at a time. You may also notice blood in the stool which is a sign of bleeding from your rectum. This may also be accompanied by abdominal pain and discomfort, as if you are having abdominal cramps or a bad case of gas. Patients may also experience unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite and feelings of weakness and fatigue.
If you notice these signs especially if you are over the age of 50, have yourself screened for colon cancer. Most doctors will recommend those over the age of 50 to get regular colon cancer screenings even in the absence of symptoms as a preventive measure. Over 90 percent of colon cancer diagnoses were made on people over the age of 50. Other risk factors aside from age include:
- Race—African Americans are more at risk of having colon cancer
- Presence of polyps – polyps can develop into cancerous tumors so it’s best to have it removed early.
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions – these conditions include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Genetics – your family history may play a part in developing colon cancers if one or more relative has had colon cancer or polyps and especially if there is a history of related syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome
- Diet—those who consume high amounts of fat and low amounts of fiber are at risk—although this risk factor still requires further research
- Inactivity—those who do less exercise are more at risk of developing colon cancer
- Obesity—compared to people with normal weight, obese people are more at risk of developing colon cancer and are more likely to die from it
- Smoking and alcohol—quitting smoking and moderating the intake of alcohol can decrease risk of colon cancer
- Diabetes—people with diabetes are more at risk than people who don’t have the chronic condition