Colorectal Cancer Main
Page - Colon Cancer Symptoms and Treatments
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the
United States. There are over 130,000 cases diagnosed each year and
over 50,000 deaths from the disease. It can be survivable, especially
if caught early. This is why screening for colon cancer is so
There are several types of colon cancer including lymphoma, carcinoid
tumors, melanoma, and sarcomas. Colon carcinoma is the most common
type. There are several risk factors for colon cancer including family
history, diet, obesity, even smoking and alcohol consumption. Patients
with a history of breast cancer have a slightly higher risk of
developing colon cancer, and so do African Americans. Men are more
likely to develop colon cancer than women.
Although it has not been proven that a high fiber diet can lower the
risk of colon cancer, most experts believe that a diet high in fat and
meat diet low in fiber will increase the risk.
Almost all men and women over the age of 50 should have a colonoscopy.
African Americans should be tested 5 years earlier. There are a couple
simple tests that can be performed for younger patients not wanting to
undergo a colonoscopy. Fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, and
barium enema, although there has been some debate whether these tests
are accurate. Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard.
It is important to get tested because in most cases there are no
symptoms. However, if there are some symptoms, these are the ones to
look out for:
There may be a
change in bowel habits or diarrhea or constipation that do not resolve
You may see some
blood in the stool
where the skin become pale
Abdominal pain and
tenderness in the lower abdomen
Weight loss without
any known reason
It is important to get tested as early as possible, rather than wait
until you have symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, make an
appointment with your doctor.
Treatment for colon cancer may depend on the stage of the disease. It
is important to know how far the tumor has spread through the layers of
the intestine. Here are the various stages for colon cancer:
Stage 0: Very early
cancer on the innermost layer (more accurately considered a precursor
Stage I: Tumor in
the inner layers of the colon
Stage II: Tumor has
spread through the muscle wall of the colon
Stage III: Tumor
that has spread to the lymph nodes
Stage IV: Tumor
that has spread to distant organs
For stage 0 the treatment will likely be cutting out the lesion, often
in conjunction with a colonoscopy. For stages I, II, and III the
surgery may be fore extensive, and in some cases a segment of the colon
containing the tumor and reattachment may be necessary.
Patients in stage III will likely receive chemotherapy with the drug
5-fluorouracil given for approximately 6 - 8 months. This drug has been
show to increase the chance for a cure. There has been some debate as
to whether patients with stage II colon cancer should receive
chemotherapy after surgery.
Stage IV patients will likely receive chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.
The goal is to lengthen life, and improve the patient's quality of
life. Irinotecan, oxaloplatin, and 5-fluorouracil are the 3 most
commonly used drugs. They may be given individually or in combination.
Oxaliplatin is a new drug that was approved by the FDA in 2002. It is
often used in combination with 5-fluorouracil. There are studies and
clinical trials underway to find drugs that specifically target the
abnormalities in cancer cells. There is a chemotherapy able to pass the
acids in the stomach that can be given orally called capecitabine (Xeloda).
Again, it is important to get the colonoscopy early to avoid major
surgery. The procedure will look for polyps, which can grow or develop
into cancer. These are growths that protrude from the inner lining and
some may appear to have a stalk. Most are benign and might cause some
rectal bleeding. If you experience any bleeding make an appointment
with your doctor immediately.
By Dan Wilson
Books on Cancer
Keywords and misspellings: colan carsinoma
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