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Colon cancer arises from colon polyps, which are abnormal growths of cells on the colon lining. Although most colon polyps are benign and pose no harm, some have the potential to progress into cancer over time.

Colon cancer has four primary stages:

  1. Stage A is when the cancer is still located within the colon.
  2. Stage B occurs when cancer has spread into the lining of the bowel.
  3. Stage C indicates the cancer has broken through the bowel lining.
  4. Stage D is when cancer has spread throughout the body.

Before discussing the stages of colon cancer, it is important to have a clear understanding of what this disease is and the possible symptoms that may be experienced.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer, as defined by the American Cancer Society, is a type of cancer that originates in the colon or rectum. The colon and rectum form the major part of the large intestine, which is a muscular tube about five feet long intended for nutrient absorption and waste elimination.

The development of a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum is the primary starting point for the majority of colorectal cancers. While not all polyps turn into cancer, some have the potential to spread to other parts of the body.

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What Are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?

Colorectal cancer symptoms and signs can differ from person to person. Since many of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, it’s crucial to see a doctor if any of the symptoms such as changes in bowel habits or unexplained weight loss occur.

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Blood, which could be bright red or dark, in the stool
  • Stools that look thinner than normal
  • Abdominal discomfort including pains, fullness, or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant fatigue
  • Iron-deficiency anemia 
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What Treatments Are Available for Colon Cancer?

The treatment for colon cancer is determined based on various factors, including the stage of the cancer. In Stage A, the cancer is confined to the inner lining of the colon and is completely treatable. Typically, a surgical approach is employed to remove the polyp by snipping it with a colonoscope. However, some patients may require more advanced treatment beyond local excision. As the cancer progresses to Stage D, the chances of successful treatment decrease significantly, and the survival rate also drops.

Surgical intervention, radiation, or chemotherapy may be used to treat advanced stages of colon cancer. The choice of treatment depends on various factors, such as the patient’s health status, medical history, previous treatments, and the extent of the disease.

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Who Can Get Colon Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent type of cancer in the United States, among both men and women. It is estimated that nearly 147,950 individuals are diagnosed with colon cancer every year, and over one-third of them do not survive. Although the disease predominantly affects adults aged 55 or above, there has been an increase in its occurrence among younger Americans. Fortunately, early detection of the disease leads to successful treatment and high survival rates for the majority of patients.

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What is the Number One Way to Prevent Colon Cancer?

Geisinger recommends that adopting a diet low in processed foods and red meats can reduce the risk of colon cancer. Studies have shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber can boost the body’s immunity against diseases. Additionally, increasing water intake throughout the day may also lower the likelihood of developing advanced-stage colon cancer. However, it is important to note that even a healthy diet cannot completely eliminate the risk of colon cancer.

The most effective way in preventing colon cancer is by being proactive in detecting it before it advances. Early detection is crucial because colon cancer typically doesn’t exhibit any symptoms until it has advanced to a later stage. A colonoscopy is the preferred method to identify polyps in the colon that could potentially cause issues in the future. Prevention is the key to avoiding the disease from escalating into a life-threatening condition.

What is a Colonoscopy?

Modern colonoscopies typically involve light sedation, and for most patients, the procedure is painless. A long, flexible tube called a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum during the procedure, and a small video camera at the tip of the tube enables the doctor to examine the inside of your colon. The colonoscope can also introduce air into the colon, which helps the doctor to see the inside of the organ. If a polyp is discovered, the same instrument can be used to make a small incision and remove it.

For most patients, the procedure takes between 30 to 60 minutes and carries very few risks.

Prior to a colonoscopy procedure, patients need to prepare their colon to ensure its cleanliness for the examination. This typically involves adhering to specific dietary and fluid restrictions, as well as taking a prescribed laxative..

Colorectal cancer can be prevented through regular screenings. A colonoscopy is the most effective method of detecting and removing polyps before they develop into cancer. This is important because colon cancer often starts as a polyp that grows slowly over time.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of colon cancer, are over the age of 45, or have a family history of the disease, it is important to schedule a screening with your healthcare provider. Early detection is key to successful treatment and improved outcomes.

At AMA Medical Group, our experienced doctors offer comprehensive care to protect your health at every stage of your life. Request an appointment online or call us at 727-331-8740 to speak with one of our team members.