Our gastroenterologist, Dr. Pratima Dibba, discusses colon cancer, the risks, and testing.
Colorectal cancer is when the normal cells of the colon or the rectum transform into abnormal cells and begin rapidly dividing, and in some cases spread to other organ systems within the body.
Sometimes you can hear that colon cancer is referred to as CRC, which stands for colorectal cancer, bowel cancer or cancer of the large intestine. So data hasn’t identified a specific cause for it, but there are several different factors that have been named as potential risks for colon cancer. Risk factors include but are not limited to a personal history of colon polyps, a family history of colon polyps or colon cancer, certain hereditary conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, certain inflammatory conditions or inflammatory bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, excess tobacco use, excess alcohol use, a sedentary lifestyle, a low fiber diet, high ingestion of meat or processed foods, obesity, as well as certain ethnicities who have an increased risk of colon cancer versus others.
There are very many cases in which patients do not present with any symptoms interestingly, but some patients may present with rectal bleeding, abnormal weight loss, severe abdominal pain, or chronic abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits or just anemia or low blood count. The best test that we have to diagnose colon cancer is endoscopic evaluation. So that includes colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies. When colon cancers are very large or there’s evidence of metastatic spread to another organ, radiographic imaging might be helpful.
Based on the extent of spread or the depth of invasion into the lining of the colon treatment for colon cancer can include endoscopic resection, surgery, chemotherapy, oral radiation or even a combination of some of the aforementioned prevention treatments. So recovery from colon cancer really depends on the extent of spread or the depth of invasion of the actual cancer into the lining of the colon. But one thing I can say is that the earlier the detection of colon cancer, the better the options are and the faster the recovery is.