Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). A cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Signs and symptoms may include blood in the stool, a change in bowel movements, weight loss, and feeling tired all the time.
Most colorectal cancers are due to old age and lifestyle factors with only a small number of cases due to underlying genetic disorders. Some risk factors include diet, obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity. Dietary factors that increase the risk include red and processed meat as well as alcohol. Another risk factor is inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Some of the inherited genetic disorders that can cause colorectal cancer include familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer; however, these represent less than 5% of cases. It typically starts as a benign tumor, often in the form of a polyp, which over time becomes cancerous.
Bowel cancer may be diagnosed by obtaining a sample of the colon during a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. This is then followed by medical imaging to determine if the disease has spread. Screening is effective for preventing and decreasing deaths from colorectal cancer. Screening is recommended starting from the age of 50 to 75. During colonoscopy, small polyps may be removed if found. If a large polyp or tumor is found, a biopsy may be performed to check if it is cancerous. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs decrease the risk. Their general use is not recommended for this purpose, however, due to side effects.
Treatments used for colorectal cancer may include some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Cancers that are confined within the wall of the colon may be curable with surgery while cancer that has spread widely are usually not curable, with management being directed towards improving quality of life and symptoms. Five year survival rates in the United States are around 65%. This, however, depends on how advanced the cancer is, whether or not all the cancer can be removed with surgery, and the person's overall health. Globally, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer making up about 10% of all cases. In 2012, there were 1.4 million new cases and 694,000 deaths from the disease. It is more common in developed countries, where more than 65% of cases are found. It is less common in women than men.
DIAGNOSIS OF COLON CANCER
In order to diagnose colon cancer, physicians will request a complete physical exam as well as personal and family medical histories. Diagnoses are usually made after the physician conducts a colonoscopy or a barium enema x-ray.
A colonoscopy is a procedure where a long, flexible tube with a camera on one end is inserted into the rectum to inspect the inside of the colon. If polyps are found in the colon, they are removed and sent to a pathologist for biopsy - an examination under a microscope that is used to detect cancerous or precancerous cells.
A barium enema begins with the patient not eating or drinking several hours before the procedure. A liquid solution containing the element barium is then injected into the colon through the rectum. After the barium lines the large intestine, an X-ray of the colon and rectum is taken. The barium will appear white on the X-ray and tumors and polyps will appear as dark outlines.
If a colon cancer diagnosis is made after a biopsy, doctors will often order chest x-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans of the lungs, liver, and abdomen to see how far the cancer has spread. It is also not uncommon for a doctor to test blood for CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) - a substance produced by some cancer cells.
THERE IS SOME INDICATION THAT VARIOUS PRACTICES
CAN LOWER THE RISK OF COLON CANCER.
1. Regular Screenings
Once you hit 50, regular screenings for colon cancer are the best way to reduce your risk of succumbing to the disease. Colon cancer, like many diseases, becomes less dangerous the earlier it’s detected, so sticking to a regular screening schedule is highly recommended.
Exercise and activity levels also play a role in the development of colon cancer. Research indicates that men who get more exercise are less likely to develop colon cancer. If lead a sedentary life, it’s worthwhile to try to get more active—and those benefits extend far beyond lowering the risk of colon cancer.
What you eat can also be a factor in the likelihood of developing colon cancer. The Standard American Diet, full of processed foods, refined sugars and unhealthy fats, is associated with higher rates of colon cancer. On the other hand, a diet such as the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein, is associated with lower risk of colon cancer. Alcohol consumption may also play a role.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D levels are associated with good health, and there appears to be a correlation between vitamin D and cancer. In order to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, try to spend time in the sun every day. Depending on your complexion, you can spend anywhere from about 20 minutes (for fairer skin) to 60 minutes (for darker skin) without sunscreen to absorb enough sunlight to create vitamin D. You can also take vitamin D supplements.
FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE EARLY WARNING SIGNS
OF COLON CANCER IN MEN
The symptoms of colon cancer can strike at any time, so it’s best to catch them early, and because they often creep up (or are undetectable), getting regular screenings should be your first line of defense. If you haven’t been screened or haven’t visited your doctor in a while, it’s wise to make an appointment. The warning signs of colon cancer in men are sneaky and easy to ignore, so do your best to stay on top of them. Pay attention, see a doctor, and give yourself the best chance of avoiding colon cancer.