Important Things to Know About Colon Cancer

Here’s everything you need to know about the signs, symptoms and screening test for colon cancer.

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Colon cancer is a silent killer – because symptoms don’t usually show until the disease is advanced, it can be difficult to identify and start a treatment plan. However, if caught in its early stages, colon cancer is very treatable.

Here are some things you should know about colon cancer. It’s important to debunk these myths to ensure you are aware of the right colon cancer information.

1. Myth: Colon Cancer Only Affects Men

Generally, people think that colon cancer mostly strikes white men who are senior citizens, but nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, women have nearly an identical chance of developing colon cancer as men do. Stats from the American Cancer Society show that 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women will develop colon cancer at some point in their lives.

Another study conducted by the American Cancer Society shows that colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths for both males and females. So, it is just as essential for women to get regular screenings as men. However, African American men and women are more vulnerable to this disease as compared to other races. African American men and women are more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer and to die from this disease.

2. Myth: You Aren’t At Risk If You Have Regular Bowel Movements

The most alarming aspect of colon cancer is that it’s a silent killer since it doesn’t express symptoms until the disease is in advanced stages.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the common symptoms of colon cancer:

  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Feeling like the bowel doesn’t completely empty
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, including pain, gas, and cramps
  • Blood in stool and/or rectal bleeding

It is recommended that men and women in their 50s and older undergo regular screenings for colon cancer. If you belong to a high risk group you will want to get screened even earlier. Some of these high risk factors include:

  • Being 50-years-old or above
  • A personal or family history of colon cancer before age 60
  • For women – a personal or family history of ovarian, endometrial, or breast cancer
  • A history of inflamed bowel disorder, or IBD
  • Being Jewish and of Eastern European descent
  • Being African American

Specific lifestyle factors might increase the likelihood of colon cancer. These factors include being overweight, living an inactive lifestyle, overconsumption of processed food or red meats, excessive alcohol use and smoking.

3. Myth: Once You’re Diagnosed Nothing Can Be Done

The ideal scenario for colon cancer treatment is that it’s found as soon as possible. However, the patient should not lose hope even if it’s detected in a later stage as there are treatment options for each stage of the disease. Treatments for different stages of colon cancer may involve the following, according to the American Cancer Society:

Surgery: This option alone is good enough for stage 0 colon cancer; polyps could be simply be eliminated. A partial colectomy or partial removal of the colon may be performed. Surgery can also be used in stage I. In stages II, III and IV surgery could involve the removal of adjacent lymph nodes.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is another option. For stage II colon cancer, for instance, it might be performed following before surgery to shrink tumors before removing remaining cells.

Targeted Therapies: A combination of chemotherapy and targeted therapies are recommended for colon tumors that have spread to other parts of the body.

4. Myth: There’s No Need to Get Screened if You Don’t Have a Family History

Don’t consider yourself immune from colon cancer because it’s never struck anyone in your family. According to the American Cancer Society, as many as 75 percent of all new cases occur among people who have no risk factors other than being over 50.

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In fact, anyone aged 50 and above needs regular screening via colonoscopies. Your doctor will recommend you undergo further testing if you have a family history of the disease.

Colon cancer is highly treatable if diagnosed earlier. Awareness efforts regarding the importance of screenings like colonoscopies have been proving fruitful. Due to this, the death rate for colon cancer has been decreasing sharply over the last ten years or so, according to the American Cancer Society.

Knowledge is Your Best Friend

Thousands of new cases of colon cancers are detected in the US every year. Many of these cases occur among people with no known family history of the disease. The best way to know if you are starting to develop colon cancer is by undergoing regular screenings, like colonoscopies. Please talk to your doctor to make sure you schedule your colonoscopy.