What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer or colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the gut (intestine). The colon is the first part of the large bowel that measures around 4-5 feet. Cancer develops because of the uncontrolled growth of cells in the inner lining of the colon or rectum (the passageway that connects the colon to the anus). According to experts, around 5% of Americans will develop colorectal cancer during their life. The cancer is often detected at later stages. It may begin as abnormal tissue growths called polyps. Regular screening to detect polyps before they turn into colon cancer may help detect cancer at an early stage when it may be curable.
10 Early signs of colon cancer
Colon or colorectal cancer may not cause any symptoms during the early stages of the disease. A person may have polyps or colon cancer but may not have any symptoms till the late stages of the disease. Hence, regular screening may help detect cancer early. Most early signs of colon cancer may be mistaken for other more common diseases and vice versa. For instance, a change in bowel habits may be caused by a bowel infection or the presence of blood in the stool may be because of piles or hemorrhoids. Hence, you must consult your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Some of the early signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:
- Presence of blood in stool that may be red or dark in color
- Change in bowel habits that may be constipation or diarrhea
- Aches, cramps, or pain in the tummy that do not go away
- Unintended or unexplained loss of weight
- Bloating or gas
- Passing narrowing stools that may last for several days
- Feeling weak or getting tired easily
- A constant urge to have a bowel movement coupled with the feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pale skin
What are the risk factors for developing colon cancer?
Several factors can increase the risk of colon cancer. Some common risk factors are:
- Age: The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people who are of age 50 years or more.
- Family history: People who have a family history (especially in parents or siblings) of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer may have a higher risk of getting the disease than those without a positive family history.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD): IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Being overweight or obese: Individuals who are overweight or obese may be more likely to get colorectal cancer.
- Sedentary lifestyle: A lack of physical activity can increase the risk of getting colorectal cancer.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet rich in processed meats, fatty foods, or fried foods and deficient in fiber (including fruits and vegetables) may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Alcohol: Chances of getting colorectal cancer may be increased because of alcohol consumption.
- Tobacco: Consumption of tobacco may increase the risk of various cancers including colon cancer.
- History of other cancers: A personal history of other cancers, such as cancer of the breast, uterus, or ovaries, may increase the risk of colon cancer.
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Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. What Is Colorectal Cancer? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/what-is-colorectal-cancer.htm