by Kimberley Allen R.N.
Colon cancer is cancer that begins in the large intestine. It is frequently grouped with rectal cancer which begins in the last six
inches of the colon to the rectum and is refered to as colorectal cancer. There are over 1 million people diagnosed with colorectal
cancer annually with approximately a half million deaths related to colorectal cancer annually. It is one of the few cancers that is more prevalent in developed countries. The reason for this phenomenon is that a majority of colorectal cancers are the result of lifesyle and increasing age. In the US it is the third most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men and fourth in women.
Researchers aren’t sure of the exact mechanism that causes colon cancer, however, thery do know the factors that significantly
increases a persons chances of developing colon cancer. The most common risk factor is diet. A diet high in red meat, fats, and
processed foods has been found to significantly increase your risk of developing colon cancer. Other risks include a family history of poyps and/or colorectal cancer. There are also certain genetic syndromes that are inherited, like Lynch Syndrome, that increase your risk of colon cancer.
Chronic inflammatory intestinal diseases such as crohns disease or ulcerative colitis can also increase your risk of developing colon cancer. Living a sedentary lifesyle is not only dangerous for your heart is increases your risk for numerous medical conditions including colon cancer.
It can take several years before the symptoms of colon cancer present themselves and the symptoms vary depending on the location of the tumor. Also, the symptoms of colon cancer are the same as many of the inflammatory bowel conditions like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diverticulosis, and others. Those symptoms would include any change in bowel habits, abdominal pain or cramping, weakness and fatigue.
The most common treatment for colon cancer is surgical removal of the tumor. Depending on whether or not the cancer has spread to other areas of the body further treatment with chemotherapy may or may not be needed.
Prevention is always the way to go when possible and colon cancer is on form of cancer that you can take steps to prevent. The first thing to do is to make lifesyle changes. Start with your diet, avoid high fat and processed foods and increase the fresh fruits and vegetable, eat more whole grains, and foods high in antioxidants and fiber. EXERCISE! It doesn’t need to be aerobicm but it’s important to include some form of regular exercise like walking in your daily routine. Making these changes will help you maintain a healthy weight.
The number one way to prevent colon cancer is through regular screening. The best screening test available today is a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy the Dr can actually see any polyps and remove them before they can become cancerous. I have heard too many people, mostly men, declare to me that they were not going to have that test.
I must confess I was not thrilled with the idea either but I did it anyway and it really wasn’t bad at all. It is an out patient procedure and doesn’t require alot of your time, from arrival at the hospital to departure for me was 1 1/2- 2hrs, it was a small community hospital larger hospitals may take longer depending on their protocols. The Dr gives a mild sedative through the IV, usually a medication called versed. This medication allows you to remain concious during the proceedure so the Dr can ask questions etc, however you don’t remember the proceedure or being awake and talking during it. There is no pain associated with the test either. Regular screening should begin at age 50 though it is recommended that African Americans and Indian Americans should begin earlier at age 45. It is recommended that both men and women get screened every 5-10 years.
Depending on the findings during the first colonoscopy your Dr will discuss how often you should be screened with you. So it’s time to ‘man up’ and over come your fear and paranoia, this is a cancer that you can prevent.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.