The colon is the muscular tubing measuring about 6 foot. It is the organ which connects the small intestine to the rectum. The colon together with rectum (small opening through which stool is passed) is called large intestine. Thus colon is a special organ that processes all the waste materials collected from the food substance. It works on the waste products which is mixed with water content, and empties it on the rectum so that expelling the waste becomes easy for the rectum. The colon is the place where stool is stored in your body until it is expelled out.
The contents of waste particles are sent into the rectum once or twice a day depending on the quantity of content. The rectum is the organ that connects the colon to the anus. It measures about six inches and its main task is to obtain stool from the colon and expel it. This is the portion of the body that makes you feel that you have to evacuate the stool. Rectum also holds the stool until you expel it.
Colon cancer is the formation of cancerous cells in the colon and rectal cancer is the formation of cancer cells in the rectum. When both the organs are affected with cancer, it is together called colorectal cancer. Colon cancer develops when some cells multiply and grow in uncontrolled manner before the older cells die. This eventually forms a tumor and becomes malignant (cancer causing) in few days.
Colon cancer is the 3rd major cause of cancer deaths in the America. It usually develops on the inner wall of the colon or large intestine which then spreads outside the muscular wall and to other parts of the body. Colon cancer is of silent tumor type and will not show any symptoms until the cancer has advanced to 3rd or 4th stage. If detected in early stages, colon cancer can be cured completely.
Who Is likely To Develop Colon or Colorectal Cancer?
Colon cancer can occur on any person, irrespective of sex or age. But certain factors given below make one prone to develop colon cancer. Old age (people above 50 years), having family history of colon cancer or having hereditary polyps, having inflammatory bowel disease, taking plenty of processed meats and red meat, taking low fiber diet, being physically inactive, being obese, drinking and smoking can increase the risk of developing colon cancer. People belonging to African American origin and those having inherited disease like adenomatous polyps are likely to develop colon or colorectal cancer.
Causes Of Colon Cancer :
Due to some reason, certain cells begin to grow out of control and occupy the space before older cells die out. This results in tumor formation which would destroy normal healthy cells and tissues in the neighborhood. What exactly triggers these cells to grow out of control is not known. Colon cancer starts as a small polyp inside the colon. Most of the time polyps are benign (harmless) but some of them turn malignant causing cancer.
Hyperplastic polyps are one that doesn’t develop into cancerous cells. Adenomas polyps are one that can develop into cancer. Adenomas are believed to be precancerous cells in your body. If adenomas or polyps are removed the risk of getting cancer can be prevented. Individuals with inflammatory disease are likely to have abnormal cells or dysplasia in the colon. Colon cancer can be inherited through genes. For instance familial adenomas polyps can be passed on to the children by the parents and people with such kind of polyps are more prone to develop colon cancer than others.
In case your doctor suspects colon cancer or rectal cancer, he may order for colonoscopy procedure for viewing the entire colon. He would also take sample tissue from the colon for testing in the lab. He would order for imaging tests like CT scan for getting clear picture of the colon.
Colon Cancer Treatment :
Treatment options vary widely for colon cancer according to the stage of cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy and surgery are the available options for colon cancer.
- Surgery :
If colon cancer is diagnosed in early stages, it can be removed by surgical procedure. Colonoscopy is the ideal method for removing small sized tumor from the colon. In case the polyp is larger in size, he may use endoscopy for resection. Laparoscopy method is also used for removing polyps. Small incisions are made on the abdomen through which surgical tools are passed inside with tiny cameras. Surgeon would closely monitor the colon to remove the polyps carefully.
If the cancer has advanced to 2nd stage penetrating into the colon wall the surgeon may do colectomy surgery by removing the affected part of the colon. He would also remove lymph nodes that are affected by cancer to prevent further growth. After that he would connect the remaining colon tube to the rectum. For some people a special bag is kept for collecting the bowel if the surgery involves removal of rectum completely. If the cancer has advanced to final stages surgery is performed to give relief from the symptoms. For some people part of liver where the cancerous cells has invaded is removed to continue life.
- Chemotherapy :
Colon cancer is often treated with chemotherapy drugs which is given as shots or medications. This procedure is often combined with surgery either before or after the operation.
- Radiation Therapy :
Powerful beams of radiation are passed into the colon for destroying cancer cells. This procedure is done if the cancer has advanced invading the nearby lymph nodes. This approach is combined with chemo sessions for getting the best outcome.
- Targeted Drugs :
Targeted drugs like Erbitux, Vectibix, or Avastin are given to treat colon cancer in the final stage. However this treatment is meant only for patients with advanced stage of colon cancer and not for others.
You cannot do anything to prevent colon cancer. Eat balanced diet and do regular exercises.