Every year in the United States, more than 150,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed, making it the third most common cancer in the country. While most patients are over the age of 50, colon cancer can affect anyone at any age. And although colon cancer treatments often yield positive results, early detection is extremely important. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with colon cancer, it is critical to understand the disease and your options for treatment at Richmond University Medical Center.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Originating in the large intestine or rectum, colon cancer develops when small clusters of polyps, typically benign, form on the colon, the organ at the end of the digestive tract. When these polyps grow and mutate, colorectal cancer develops. The most common colon cancers include:
- Adenocarcinomas, including colorectal, mucinous, and signet ring cell
- Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors
- Primary colorectal lymphomas
Symptoms and Risk Factors
At first, colon cancer may not present any symptoms, and those that appear are often minimal. But as the disease progresses, several symptoms could indicate the presence of colon cancer, including:
- Blood in the stool or the rectal area
- Unexplained weight loss
- Continuous abdominal discomfort, including pain, gas, cramps, and more
- A lasting change in bowel habits, including constipation, diarrhea, and/or different stool consistency
- A constant need to defecate, even after a recent bowel movement
Most individuals should receive annual colon cancer screenings via colonoscopy beginning at age 50. During the colonoscopy, a video camera attached to a long tube captures images of the colon and rectum. If abnormalities are detected, a biopsy is performed to analyze a tissue sample.
Several factors increase a person’s risk of colon cancer. Age is the most common risk factor with higher rates of diagnosis in the late 60s for men and the early 70s for women. Those with a family history of colon cancer also face an elevated risk. Ethnicity plays a role as well, with African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews at higher risk. Diet, obesity, and inactivity may also increase risk.
Colon Cancer Treatment
In most cases, surgery is the preferred method of colon cancer treatment. It is also considered the most effective option. Depending on the location and stage of your colon cancer, our expert oncologists will determine which surgical procedure is right for you. In some cases, preventative surgery can address polyps before abnormalities occur. Additionally, surgical diagnosis may be required to determine the type and severity of your cancer.
In many cases, patients receive a combination of surgical and nonsurgical treatments. Radiation therapy, a common treatment, uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells in affected areas. Your oncologist may also recommend chemotherapy, the use of powerful medications that attack, shrink, and kill cancer cells. And while the immune system is unable to fight cancer on its own, immunotherapy teaches T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells, providing an additional treatment option.
Learn More about Colon Cancer
It is normal to experience stress, anxiety, and worry after a cancer care diagnosis. Our team of oncologists, physicians, and other cancer specialists will use the most advanced methods to provide compassionate, high-quality treatment. Call (844)-934-CARE to schedule an appointment or request a referral today.