Colon Cancer refers to the last part of the bowel (the colon) leading to the rectum and anus. This type of cancer can be very serious, but fortunately there are screening tests that can be carried out. Like most cancers, if you catch it early enough, it can be beaten.
Colon cancer generally affects older adults, (one of the disadvantages of growing older, though it still beats the alternative). However, it can happen at any age.
It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time some of these polyps can become colon cancers. The best way of recognizing these polyps is by direct vision, then sampling (biopsy) and looking at the cellular structure under the microscope.
Polyps can be quite small initially and produce very few warning signs. This is why we recommend regular screening tests by identifying and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.
Signs to look out for include:
- A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
This is when colonoscopy is invaluable, allowing direct vision and biopsy of polyps through the colonoscope.
You may also have heard of Colorectal Cancer which is a term that combines colon cancer and rectal cancer, which has it’s beginning in the rectum. If colon cancer is not found until later, many treatments are available to help control it, generally including surgery, plus radiation therapy and drug treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.