Colon cancer, often referred to as bowel, rectal, or colorectal cancer, is a cancer that begins in the rectum or colon, located in the lower digestive system. It is one of the most common cancers, with almost 150,000 cases diagnosed in the United States every year. Generally, it appears first in the form of polyps – small, noncancerous masses of cells that form in the lower digestive tract. Like with many other cancers, early detection of colon cancer is highly important for successful treatment.
There is no one specific cause of colon cancer, but genetics and lifestyle both play a role in the development of the disease. Genetic markers that are passed down through generations of your family may increase your risk. If precancerous polyps in the colon’s lining are not removed early on, they can become cancerous.
Precancerous polyps often have no symptoms and can only be detected by getting a colon cancer screening. When symptoms do emerge, they may include:
There are a number of lifestyle, hereditary, and environmental factors that can contribute to your risk of colon cancer. Some are beyond your control, such as age (most people who develop colon cancer do so after the age of 50) and family history (if you have a blood relative who has had bowel cancer, you are likely at a higher risk of getting it yourself). You also may be more vulnerable to colon cancer if you have diabetes or conditions that cause intestinal inflammation, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
However, colorectal cancer also has many lifestyle risk factors that are within your control. These include:
A colonoscopy is an examination that involves inserting a long, narrow tube with a tiny camera on the end into the rectum to view the inside of the lower digestive tract. During the exam, a qualified physician investigates the colon for polyps or any other abnormal changes. Polyps can be removed in order to perform a biopsy and discover the presence of cancer.
Colon cancer screenings are among the services we offer at Medical Offices of Manhattan. Doctors recommend that everyone at an average risk of colorectal cancer should get screened every five to ten years beginning at the age of 50. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or any other significant risk factors, you may want to get screened earlier and more often. If you identify one or more of the common symptoms of colon cancer, you should schedule a screening appointment as soon as possible.
If polyps are discovered in the precancerous stage, they can often be removed during the colonoscopy. Larger polyps may require minimally invasive surgery to be removed. If the colon cancer is more advanced, it may require a partial colectomy, a surgical procedure involving removal of part of the colon. Chemo or radiation therapy may be necessary after surgery if the disease is more extensive. Any of these treatments would be accompanied by a care plan to relieve pain and other cancer symptoms.
Bowel cancer is one of the most highly treatable cancers, particularly if it is discovered early on. However, if colorectal cancer is not treated, there is a danger that it could spread to the lymph nodes and other nearby organs. If the cancer’s spread is left unchecked, it could result in death within five years.
Medical Offices of Manhattan also offers blood tests and screenings for a variety of other cancers. Early detection is absolutely vital for the treatment of these illnesses and preventive care is of the utmost importance.