Colon cancer is one of the most common type of cancer worldwide. The colon cancer is the malignancy of the large intestine, in which the tumour cells begins to grow on the inner walls of the intestine. As the cancer cells grow, they begin to invade into the surrounding organs which lead to the spread of cancer. Generally, colon cancer can be prevented by regular screening.
Men are at a greater risk of developing colon cancer when compared to women.
Signs and Symptoms:
The signs and symptoms of colon cancer include pain in the abdomen, indigestion of food, irregular bowel activities, a change in the consistency of the stools, constipation or diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, etc.
Colon cancer can occur due to any change in the DNA inside the cells. It can also occur due to mutations in certain genes such as KRAS, TP53 and SMAD4.
The risk factor associated with colon cancer can be modifiable or non-modifiable. The modifiable risk factors for colon cancer include:
- Smoking: A long time smokers are prone to develop colon cancer. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of colon cancer.
- Age: A person’s age may be associated with increased risk of developing colon cancer. People above the age of 50 tend to be at a risk of developing colon cancer.
- Diet: Consuming a diet rich in fats and unhealthy foodstuff increases the risk of colon cancer. Foods such as red meat (pork, beef and other meat products), hot dogs, etc. increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Cooking foods at a high temperature, deep frying and grilling of foods produce a chemical that may cause cancer.
- Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol more than 2 drinks a day is associated with increased risk of colon cancer.
The non-modifiable risks associated with cancer include:
- A personal history of adenomatous polyps(adenomas)
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- A family history of adenomatous polyps and colorectal cancer
- A family history of inherited genes of colon cancer
Complete Blood Count: The test is performed to confirm whether the patient is anaemic. A person tends to become anaemic, due to continuous bleeding of colon cancer.
Liver enzymes: The test is conducted to study if there is any disorder related to the liver or the effect of colon cancer on the liver.
Tumour Markers: This test is performed to detect the presence of tumour markers in the blood. The most common type of colon cancer markers found in the blood is carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA19-9.
Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is a regular test performed to obtain images of the colon and the rectum. This image helps confirm if the presence of ulcers, fissures or the presence of a tumour.
Biopsy: A physician may recommend for biopsy to confirm the presence of tumour in the colon. The test is conducted by taking a sample of the colon during the colonoscopy procedure. The tissue sample obtained, is viewed under a microscope, to detect any changes in the sample.
Ultrasound: This test is conducted to detect any changes in the abdomen, by studying the size of various organs.
MRI Scan: The test provides an overall view of the soft tissues in the abdomen. This test is mainly conducted to study the nature of the soft tissues and the spread of the disease to the various organs.
There is a wide scope of treatment of colon cancer patients with the development of medical technology. The colon cancer patients are treated in either one or in a combination of the following methods, which include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
Surgery is the main scope of treatment of colon cancer with two common procedure adopted. They are Polypectomy and colectomy. The polypectomy is performed through the procedure of colonoscopy, which does not require any insertion of the colonoscope.
Another procedure adopted for removing the tumour from the colon is colectomy. This procedure is usually performed by open colectomy procedure or by the laparoscopic method.
It is one of the preferable choice of treatment of cancer patients. Radiation therapy in combination with chemotherapy provides effective treatment.
Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer through the administration of anti-cancer drugs. These anti-cancer agents are administered either orally or through the veins. The mode of treatment of cancer can only be through chemotherapy or chemotherapy associated with radiation therapy and surgery which produces effective results.
The treatment of cancer can be achieved through targeted therapy by treating the patient with certain antibiotics.
Coping and Support
Colon cancer treatment can be associated with loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and general weakness. All these side-effects result in the patients being depressed. One should note that colon cancer is treatable and can be overcome by effective care and treatment with regular medicines and a healthy diet.
Understand the disease and know the course of the treatment, which helps the patient and family to cooperate with the healthcare team. During the course of treatment, the family and friends should help the patient in overcoming the depression associated with cancer. A positive and healthy mind helps in early recovery of the patient from cancer.