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Colon Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Signs & Treatment

Colon is the longest part of the large intestine and lowermost part of the digestive system. Colon cancer or colorectal is the second major cause of cancer death. The disease is slightly more common in men than women and the risk of colon cancer increases with age. Water and salt from the solid waste after digestion from small intestine get extracted inside the colon, before it moves into the rectum for elimination from the body.

What Is Colon Cancer?

The uncontrolled growth of cells lining the large intestine is known as colon cancer.  In most cases the colon cancer begins as small non cancerous or benign tumors known as adenomatous polyps. Over the course of time some of these polyps may grow into malignant tumors. It is better to have regular screening tests to identify polyps before they turn into colon cancer. The polyps can be removed by colonoscopy.  The cancerous cells may travel through the blood and lymph and may spread to other healthy parts. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are not the same, but they often occur together and are known as colorectal cancer.

Causes Of Colon Cancer

No specific causes are identified for colon cancer. When the cells uncontrollably grow and do not die, it results in cancer. There are certain factors which increase the risk of colon cancer. They include

  • Genetics –20 % of colon cancers are caused by inherited mutations in the genes
  • Polyps- Adenomas and inflammatory polyps may become cancerous
  • Habits And Diet- Sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol consumption, low fiber diets, fat and calorie rich diets , red meat etc increases the chance of colon cancer
  • Certain Medical Factors- Health conditions such as diabetes, ulcerative colitis, acromegaly, Crohn’s disease and radiation treatment for other cancers increases the risk of colon cancer.

Symptoms Of Colon Cancer

In the earliest stages of colon cancer the person may not experience any symptom. When the cancer reaches the advanced stage the following symptoms are seen

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Changes in stool consistency
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in stool or rectal bleeding
  • Continual urges to defecate
  • Anemia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

When cancer metastasizes or spreads to other parts, additional symptoms will be present in the newly affected area. The liver is the most common place for metastasis.

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