Types of cancer
A human body consists of two types of intestines, i.e., small intestine and large intestine. The small intestine is linked with the stomach and is responsible for regulating the central part of digestion. The colon or the large intestine mostly handles the last and final stages of digestion. A colon is a large tube that eliminates waste from the body.
In contrast to the small intestine, a colon is more wide but shorter. The small intestine is 6.7 meters long while the colon/large intestine is only 1.8 meters long. A colon is categorized into four major parts i.e.
- Ascending colon (run through the right side of the abdomen)
- Transverse colon (run from across the belly)
- Descending colon (run down the left side of the abdomen)
- The sigmoid colon (a short curved part of colon located just before the rectum)
Functioning Of Colon
Colon has a vital function in our body and the food that we consume.
- The process of digestion begins from the mouth, where the chewed food is broken down into small pieces by the help of juices from the salivary gland and tongue.
- After food enters the esophagus, the muscles here transfer it into the stomach.
- In the stomach, the food is again broken down into small pieces by the help of enzymes and gastric juices. Once the food has turned into a creamy liquid form, it has moved to small intestines.
- In the small intestine, certain juices from the pancreas, gall bladder and liver mix together and break the food particles even more, here, the most vital nutrients and vitamins present in food transferred to all the body organs through blood vessels.
- Now, mostly liquid is leftover which moves to the colon. Here, water is absorbed while the bacteria naturally present in the colon break down the remains. These remains are then transferred to the rectum.
- Muscles of the rectum can contract and release to move out the body waste, which is called stool.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Typically, colon cancer only affects people with old age, but it can still prevail at any point of life. It usually begins as non-cancerous, small and benign clumps/lumps of cells in the colon called polyps. With time, these polyps can become cancerous.
Following are the some the clinical signs and symptoms associated with colon cancer
- An obstinate change in bowel habits
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Bleeding through the rectum
- Blood in stool
- Abdominal discomfort and pain
- A feeling that your bowel has not empty
- Unexplained weakness
- Constant weight loss
- Change in stool color
- Abdominal cramps
- Excessive formation of gas in the abdominal area
- Unexplained fever
When colon cancer spreads to other parts of the body, the person may experience some other symptoms as well, such as:
- Jaundice (yellow-colored eyes and skin)
- Excessive swelling in feet and hands
- Difficulty in breathing
- Lingering and constant headaches
- Multiple bone fracture
- Blurred vision
Many people may experience symptoms during their early stages of colon cancer since when symptoms appear, they are not likely to vary but their intensity depends upon the size of cancer cells and location in the colon area.
Stages of Colon Cancer
When the wall or mucosa of the colon diagnosed with the presence of abdominal cells, it is known as stage 0 colon cancer or carcinoma in situ.
In this stage, the cancer cells have already moved in the mucosal and submucosal layer of the colon. Sub-mucosa is the underlining of the colon which lies beneath the mucosa. Once cancer reaches stage 1, malignant cells will also impact deep muscular layers of the colon wall, but the areas outside of it are still safe.
When cancer cells have spread from the colon wall into the nearby organs but have not affected the lymph nodes yet, it is considered as stage 2 colon cancer. This stage is sub-divided into further categories:
- Stage IIA (when cancer cells have spread into outer colon wall and serosa)
- Stage IIB (when cancer cells have moved from serosal, but the nearby organs are still unaffected)
- Stage IIC (cancer cells are now present in serosa and other organs as well)
- Stage III
In this stage, the diagnosis will show that the cancer cells have spread past the colon lining and the lymph nodes. Here, even if the lymph nodes have been affected, the nearby organs are still unharmed.
Even though stage III colon cancer is further divided into stage III A, IIIB and III C but these categories are still dependent upon the combination of layers that are affected as well as the lymph nodes that are affected.
In Stage IV, the cancer cells have spread to different other body organs through lymph nodes and blood vessels.
Diagnosis of Colon Cancer
If the signs and symptoms indicate that a person might have colon cancer, the doctors can perform the following procedures and tests:
Though a blood test cannot diagnose colon cancer, a doctor may still ask you to get it done to check your liver and kidney function.
The doctors can also ask for a blood screening to test the blood of chemicals (carcinoembryonic antigen) that produced during colon cancer. Measuring the levels of CEA in your blood can help understand the prognosis of your disease and the effectiveness of given treatment.
Through colonoscopy, a very long, slender but flexible tube inserted through the rectum. This tube consists of a micro video camera attached to it to give a clear view of the colon and rectum. If there is any misgiving situation, the doctors can pass surgical tools over the tube to take out a sample of cells/tissues for further analyzation and identification of polyp formation.
A colonoscopy can help doctors determine any possible cause of abdominal discomfort, chronic diarrhea or constipation, rectal bleeding, and other intestinal problems. Before the procedure, a mild sedative is recommended to be given to the patient intravenously to avoid any pain or discomfort during the process.
How to Prevent Colon Cancer
- Regular Abdominal and Rectal Screening
Doctors have recommended that people who are at low risk of developing colon cancer should get colon screening done once they are 50 or above. However, people with more risk (family history of colon cancer) should consider getting themselves screened earlier.
- Lifestyle Changes
- Eating Vegetables, Fruits, and Grains
Fruits, grains, and vegetables are abundant in antioxidants, fibers, vitamins, and minerals, which may play a significant role in preventing cancer. Add a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet so your body can receive different types of vitamins and minerals.
- Moderate to Almost Zero Alcohol Consumption and Smoking
If an individual regularly consumes alcohol, then it is necessary to cut down alcohol consumption. If you cannot leave it altogether, have no more than one glass of alcohol, per day. Also, try to talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking and then choose the one which is better for you.
Try to get at least thirty minutes to one hour exercise daily. If you are not an exercise person, start slowly and then gradually, you can build up your stamina. Also, consult a good doctor before beginning a new exercise or a workout program.