Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, which is the lower portion of the digestive system. In most cases, colon cancer begins as benign or precancerous clumps of cells called polyps, and over time, those polyps can become cancerous. Unfortunately, a direct cause of colon cancer is not yet clear; however, there are several risk factors including age, family history, inherited syndromes, diet, and lifestyle that do increase your chances of developing colon cancer. It is recommended that people with an average risk of colon cancer begin screenings at age 50.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
- Change in bowel habits
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort
- The sensation that your bowels will not empty completely
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
The type of treatment your physician recommends will likely depend on the stage of colon cancer.
- Surgery for early-stage colon cancer
In early stages, a surgeon may be able to remove the cancerous areas during a colonoscopy. Larger areas or polyps that cannot be removed during colonoscopy may be removed using laparoscopic surgery.
- Surgery for invasive colon cancer
If the cancer has spread into or through the colon, a surgeon may suggest a partial colectomy to remove the part of the colon containing cancer, along with healthy tissue on either side of the cancerous area.
- Radiation Therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
Jeff Eakin, M.D.
Pioneer Valley Hospital