Colon forms the first six feet of the large intestine in the digestive system and its main function is to process and remove the nutrients from the food that has been consumed by an individual. It is also responsible for passing out the unused and waste materials from the body.
Colon cancer or colorectal cancer is caused due to uncontrolled cancerous growth in the appendix, colon or rectum, in both men and women. Colon cancer is found in the large intestine, and is generally caused due to the natural aging process, lifestyle disorders or problems in the genetic mutations. If the colon cancer does not infiltrate or invade outside the walls of the colon, then it can be treated through surgery.
However, it is very difficult to treat colon cancer that infiltrates from its place of origin into the other parts of the body. The only treatment in the case of invasive colon cancer is prolonging the life of the patient through chemotherapy or lifestyle management.
Common Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer cannot be detected through any specific symptoms in the earliest stage of the disease. As the cancerous cells spread and colon cancer reaches its advanced stages, the symptoms begin to appear progressively. It is very important to undergo colon cancer screening, as it helps in the detection of the disorder in the earliest stages. Symptoms of colon cancer commonly include anemia, weight loss, changes in excretory habits and rectal bleeding. Given below is a synopsis of some of the important symptoms of colon cancer.
Presence of Blood In the Stool
Rectal bleeding or the presence of blood in the excreta, is one of the most common and important symptoms of colon cancer. The presence of blood in the stool cannot be observed easily by the patients themselves under the naked eye and so it is very important to undergo the requisite tests and investigations. The most common test prescribed in such cases is the fecal occult blood test, which helps in the detection of blood in the stool.
The presence of blood in the stool cannot be attributed to cancerous growth alone, as it is one of the common symptoms of anal fissures, colitis, trauma, diverticulitis, angiodyspalsia, hemorrhoids and other disorders. Sometimes the presence of red pigment in the consumed food such as beetroot, watermelons and red licorice, can lead to traces of red coloration in the stool. It is important to understand the right cause of redness or bleeding in the stool as soon as possible.
One of the other primary symptoms of colon cancer is constipation. However, constipation is not a conclusive symptom, as a patient may be suffering from the same, due to a variety of other reasons. If the symptoms of constipation and stiff bowel movement persist for a prolonged period of time, then it becomes important to consult a doctor immediately.
The constriction of the colon caused due to the presence of the tumor, makes bowel movement very difficult. This is the prime reason behind diarrhea and constipation being the important symptoms of colon cancer.
Thinning of the Stool
If there are any changes in the size or shape of the stool, then they may be caused due to the presence of a tumor in the excretory passage, which causes obstruction to their natural movement. It is important to note that thin stools may also be caused due to a large benign polyp or hemorrhoids. If thinning of stool becomes a regular phenomenon, then it becomes important to consult a doctor immediately.
Alterations in the Bowel Habits
Any abnormal changes in bowel movements or habits can be a symptom connected with colon cancer or any other less serious disorder. Sometimes, the patient feels a strong urge for emptying his/her bowel but in reality the process is not required at that particular moment. This may be caused by the presence of a tumor or cancerous growth in the colon, which causes the bowel to feel ready for the process of excretion. These and other alterations in the bowel habits should be carefully observed and discussed with the doctor.
Pain in the Abdomen
Though abdominal pain cannot be specifically attributed to colon cancer and is a symptom for many other digestive and abdominal issues, it is important to undergo investigation to diagnose the right cause for the same. If the colon happens to be obstructed by a tumor, then it may lead to severe abdominal pain. Sometimes this non specific symptom of colon cancer is accompanied with pains related to the formation of gas and wind in the abdomen. This is due to the presence of the tumor in the colon, that disallows the gas to pass through easily.
Fatigue and Tiredness
Chronic fatigue or tiredness is one of the important symptoms of colon cancer and it makes its appearance at an advanced stage.
Tiredness may be caused due anemia or any other less severe disease. However, it does indicate a medical problem and should be referred to a medical expert immediately.
Loss of Weight
The patients of colon cancer seem to loose weight due to unexplained reasons. The growth of the tumor inside the abdomen may make the belly look swollen and distended though there is no physical increase in weight. It is important to keep a close watch on the weight and consult a doctor if the problem of weight loss persists.
Nausea and Vomiting
It is common for the patients of colon cancer to suffer regular instances of vomiting or nausea. They suffer from breathlessness and cannot handle any sort of mental or physical exertion. Nausea and restlessness may be related to many other ailments and fevers, but if they are accompanied with some other more specific symptoms of colon cancer, then it is advisable to consult a doctor without any delay.
The above symptoms suggest that the symptoms of colon cancer are not very conclusive and evident. It is important to take immediate help, as and when they appear, to avoid late detection of colon cancer. The tumors in the colon spread quickly and widely, if not controlled at the right time.Colon cancer is the second largest cause of cancer deaths worldwide and it is important to undergo timely diagnosis and treatment of the same.
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