Colon cancer is cancer that starts in colon (or large intestine). The colon absorbs water and nutrients from foods. Then it passes solid waste to the rectum for storage. It stays there until it’s eliminated from the body.
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Cancer is when cells in the body split without control or order. These cells go on to form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to harmful growths. These growths attack nearby tissues. They also spread to other parts of the body. It’s not clear exactly what causes these problems. It’s likely a mix of genes and the environment.
Your chances are higher for:
People of the Black race have the highest chance of getting and dying from colon and rectal cancers.
You may not notice any symptoms at first. When present, colon cancer may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to colon cancer. You may also have:
The exam and your test results will help find out the stage of cancer you have. Staging guides your treatment. Colon cancer is staged from 0-4. Stage 0 is a very localized cancer. Stage 4 is a spread to other parts of the body.
How colon cancer is treated depends on:
Colon cancer is treated with more than one method. Sometimes they’re combined. This can be done with:
Surgery is the main way to treat colon cancer. This is done with:
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It may be given at the same time as chemotherapy. The types are:
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may given by mouth, shots, or IV. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
These medicines block tumors from growing and spreading. It may be used with other methods. In many cases, these medicines aren’t used until cancer is in later stages.
Some medicines are part of treatment. Others may help control side effects. These may include:
The purpose of these tests is find and treat cancer early. If you are aged 50 years and older, and are not at high risk, talk to your doctor to find the right test for you:
Talk to your doctor about testing after age 40 if you are Black, Asian, or a native of Alaska.
Talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested if you have:
To help lower your chances of colon cancer:
American Cancer Society
United Ostomy Associations of America
Canadian Cancer Society
Ostomy Canada Society
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Colorectal cancer screening tests. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/screening-tests-used.html. Updated May 30, 2018. Accessed July 27, 2018.
General information about colon cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colon-treatment-pdq. Updated May 4, 2018. Accessed July 27, 2018.
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Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 7/27/2018