Colon cancer can be described as cancer of the large intestine (colon) i.e. the lower part of the digestive system. Initially, the cancer is in the form of small, benign or non-cancerous clumps of adenomatous polyps’ cells, in the glands covering the inner wall of the colon. At this point of time, there will hardly be many symptoms of colon cancer. Even the few symptoms that occur are usually discarded as some abdominal problem. As the clumps remain untreated for a considerable period of time, the growth begins to enlarge. This leads to degeneration of the cells, which then become adenocarcinomas. The best way to detect colon cancer, before it exceeds the ‘benign clumps’ stage, is to regularly undertake screening tests. In case you notice even a few of the following symptoms, go ahead and have the screening done. Remember, ‘prevention is better than cure’.
Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Colon symptoms can be divided into two general varieties.
Local Colon Cancer Symptoms
- Changes in your bowel habits, such as bowel movements that are more or less frequent than normal
- Constipation (difficulty having a bowel movement or straining to have a bowel movement)
- Diarrhea (loose or watery stools)
- Intermittent (alternating) constipation and diarrhea
- Bright red or dark red blood in your stools or black, dark colored stools
- Stools that thinner than normal ("pencil stools")
- Feeling as if you are not able to empty your bowels completely
- Abdominal (midsection) discomfort, bloating, frequent gas pain, or cramps
Systemic Colon Cancer Symptoms
- Unintentional weight loss (losing weight when not dieting or trying to lose weight)
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Anemia (low red blood cell count or low iron in your red blood cells)
- Jaundice (yellow color to the skin and whites of the eyes)
Causes of Colon Cancer
While the exact cause of colon cancer is still unknown, there are certain grounds that are identified to facilitate its development. Below given are certain causes associated with the disease.
- Though colon cancer can affect people of all ages, its occurrence is more commonly diagnosed in people aged above 50.
- Those who have a history of colorectal cancer, intestinal polyps and diseases such as chronic ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are at a greater risk of developing colon cancer.
- A fatty diet (especially, those from animal sources) and an inactive, sedentary lifestyle can facilitate the development of colon cancer.
- Ethnic background has also been identified as one of the causes of colon cancer. A higher rate of this cancer is seen in the Jews of Eastern European descent, called Ashkenazi Jews. Higher death rate from colon cancer is recorded in African-Americans and Hispanics.
- Genetic factors may also increase the risk of colon cancer. Those who have a family history of colon cancer are more likely to get affected by it.
- Some researches also suggest that excess smoking and drinking increases the risk of colon cancer.