Colon cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in one or more layers of tissue of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine). The majority of the time, it begins with the growth of pre-malignant polyps known as adenomas.
Colon Cancer Tumors
Over several years, these polyps can grow larger and become malignant, developing into a tumor. Because this process can take time, early detection and screening are can identify polyps before they develop into cancer.
It’s recommended the people undergo their first screening for colon cancer at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Persons at higher risk for developing the disease may have screening earlier and more often. It’s important to speak with your family physician or other healthcare provider to determine your risk and when screening should begin.
Those at greater risk for developing colon cancer include those with a family history of colon cancer, polyps, or inherited colon cancer syndromes. People with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease are at higher risk and may require screening at an earlier age.
Signs and Symptoms
Physical warning signs for colon cancer that should be monitored and may potentially indicate a problem include:
• Blood in or on the stool
• Recurrent shifts in normal bowel habits such as experiencing diarrhea or constipation for no known reason
• Thinning of the stool
• Increases in stomach discomfort (bloating, gas, fullness and/or cramps that last more than a few days)
• A feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
• Weight loss for no known reason
• Constant and unexplained fatigue
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a physician in order to either rule out colon cancer or diagnose it early for the best chance of recovery.
While the majority of polyps will not become cancer, certain types may be precancerous. Having polyps removed reduces a person’s future risk for colorectal cancer.
Removal of colorectal polyps is advised because there is no test to determine if one will turn into cancer. Nearly all polyps can be removed or eliminated during a colonoscopy. Large polyps may require more than one treatment. Rarely, some patients may require surgery for complete removal.
Treatment depends on a complete and accurate diagnosis, which takes time to determine. Most people with colon cancer will have surgery to remove the tumor and lymph nodes, which will be examined to determine their exact stage and diagnosis.
King’s Daughters General surgeons Kevin Miller, M.D.,
Adam Martin, M.D., and David Lewis, M.D., perform colonoscopies for the early detection of colon cancer as well as surgeries to treat it. For more information, please call the office at (606) 4008-8500.