Colon (Intestinal) Cancer - Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
The colon is a tube-shaped organ that forms about 1.5-2 meters of the intestine. The colon and rectum make up the entire large intestine. The rectum is a short space that includes the last part of the intestine and stored stool. Digested nutrients from the small intestine come to the colon, and the remaining food is digested there. The part to be excreted comes to the rectum and waits here to be excreted.
On the other hand, colon cancer starts in the cells in the colon and sometimes turns into polyps. In early diagnosis, it is a treatable condition if it is detected without spreading, but in cases where it is not diagnosed early, it is a disease that spreads to the colon wall first. After the intracolonial spread is completed, the spread to different organs and tissues, called metastasis, may occur. Colon cancer can progress to vital organs such as the lungs and liver, primarily through lymph nodes and vessels.
What are the symptoms of colon (intestinal) cancer?
In colon cancer, there is often a differentiation in defecation habits. Because it gives symptoms, it is more likely to be noticed than many types of cancer. Although the symptoms are related to defecation, since the colon is a long organ, the retention on the left side of the body and the right side may give different symptoms. The column becomes narrower in the left part as a structure. This means that the stool is thinner, bleeding while defecating, changes in the pattern, etc., situations can occur. Since the right side is relatively more comprehensive, symptoms appear later, and early diagnosis becomes more difficult.
But in general, the common symptoms are:
- Feeling that the bowel is not fully emptied, even after defecation
- Disruption of defecation (diarrhea, constipation)
- Bleeding or blood in the stool
- Feeling pain while defecating
- A clear secretion in the stool
- Abdominal pain and swelling
These symptoms are both seen early and easy to notice by the patient. After these symptoms, indirect symptoms such as weight loss, decrease in blood values and anemia, formation of a mass in the abdomen, and increased pain sensation as intestinal obstruction may occur in advanced cases are also observed. For early diagnosis, the patient should be aware of the defecation pattern and follow his standard.
What causes colon (intestinal) cancer?
As with other types of cancer, genetic factors are often a fundamental cause of colon cancer. Suppose there is a family history of colon cancer, the risk increases. However, the age factor is also effective. Particularly in men aged 50-60 years, more involvement was observed. Polyps that first form benign in the intestine of the person can turn into cancer in some cases. Polyps are tiny protrusions that form in the intestine. It is helpful to follow these protrusions if they are noticed.
It is known that the risk of developing this cancer increases due to some changes in the genes. In some cases, the patient has an underlying chronic bowel disease. Diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis may act as a trigger for colon cancer in some cases because they affect the inner surface of the colon. Lifestyle, such as smoking and an unhealthy diet, can also be counted among the causes of colon cancer.
What are the stages of colon (intestinal) cancer?
Although the stages of colon cancer are not separated with definite boundaries, they are divided into approximately 5 stages to determine the treatment to be done. Symptoms vary during these stages and provide information on how far it has spread.
Stage 1: It is the earliest stage of colon cancer. At this early diagnosed stage, the polyps are removed and followed up, and the disease is overcome at this stage, chemotherapy, etc. Cancer treatment is not required.
Stage 2: Colon involvement was observed in this stage. Part of the colon may need to be removed. Since there may be spread with lymph tissues, they can also be taken in some cases.
Stage 3: It is a stage in which there is spread outside the colon, but there is still no spread in distant tissues. In cases noticed at this stage, most of the colon and lymph nodes are removed. Chemotherapy is recommended for patients at high risk of recurrence.
Stage 4: In stage 3 of colon cancer, cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Propagation is rapid at this stage. Spreading tissues are surgically removed, and chemotherapy is applied.
Stage 5: In the last stage of cancer, it spreads to distant tissues and organs, and the patient's condition worsens. Surgery is generally not preferred; treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy are tried. After these treatments, a reduction in cancerous cells is expected. If the desired level of shrinkage occurs and it is decided that the patient will remove the operation, the decision to operate can be taken.
How is the diagnosis of colon (intestinal) cancer made?
Endoscopic methods such as colonoscopy are primarily used in the diagnosis of cancer. It is easier to diagnose than other methods. Since polyps, if formed, can be removed during colonoscopy, it also creates a treatment opportunity in a sense. A stool sample is usually requested from the patient, and the necessary examinations are also made on the stool. The pieces taken during endoscopy are examined pathologically. In some cases, computed tomography may also be requested. Examinations such as MR-PET may also be requested at this time.
How is colon (intestinal) cancer treated?
The treatment protocol in colon cancer is generally aimed at increasing the patient's life expectancy and quality. Polyps with the potential to form cancer are usually first removed by colonoscopy. Surgical treatment is mandatory for the initial stages. Tumor parts are removed. If the cancer has generally metastasized through lymph and vessels, it is expected that the tumor will shrink with treatments such as chemotherapy. With the developing technology in recent years, the life expectancy of colon cancer has increased, and the chance of treatment has increased. Some of the treatment methods used to improve the quality of life are:
Invasive surgery method: The name is given to removing a specific part of the colon called colectomy. It is a radical treatment that usually works.
Bag defecation: This practice is generally preferred when the last part of the patient's colon is removed. Sometimes, after the operation, for the intestine to perform its expected functions, the small intestine is opened to the abdomen for a temporary period, and defecation is provided from here. If it is near the anus, the patient defecates in a bag.
In colon cancer, it may not be enough to remove the tumor in the large intestine alone. In the areas where cancer has spread, it may need to be removed, albeit partially, in the tissues and organs. This is because if only cancerous tissues are removed, the disease may recur in the remaining tissues. Taking this precaution can prevent future situations.
What are the precautions that can be taken to prevent colon (intestinal) cancer?
To prevent colon cancer, it is necessary to pay attention to the diet in the simplest way. Fibrous foods are healthy for the intestinal system. It is beneficial to eat such high fiber content in the diet. Foods such as excessive oily and spicy tire the intestines. Therefore, it is helpful not to consume these foods frequently. Adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D is essential. Since excess weight can also be a risk factor, the person should lose it with age-appropriate exercise. It is critical for early diagnosis that patients at risk from 50 years of age participate in regular screening tests. If the person has a family history of colon cancer, he is expected to act more carefully in this regard. If possible, these people are asked to follow the stool routine routinely. If some of the symptoms are encountered, the person should apply to a health institution for examination.
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