Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is when cancerous growths are found in the colon or rectum. Many times, what started as small, noncancerous clumps of cells (known as adenomatous polyps) turn into cancerous cells. Most often, these polyps don’t produce symptoms, which is why it is highly recommended for middle-aged adults to receive regular screening tests such as colonoscopies.
Although the exact reason for colon cancer is unknown, doctors have determined various risk factors. These factors include your age, a high fat intake diet, a family history of colorectal cancer and polyps, the presence of polyps in the large intestine, inflammatory bowel diseases and primarily chronic ulcerative colitis which can increase the risk for developing colon cancer.
Approximately 90% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed after age 50. There is also a higher occurrence of colon cancer found in African Americans. Other “at-risk” factors include those who live a sedentary lifestyle, smoke and are overweight/obese. Additionally, your diet is an important factor because the colon is part of the digestive system which can be seriously affected by your food intake. Therefore, it’s a best practice to eat healthier foods, some of which can be beneficial to your colon as well as other organs.
There are various types of colon cancer, however the majority are caused by adenocarcinoma (a malignant tumor that develops from secretory epithelium or glandlike structures). This condition begins with early tumors developing as small, benign (noncancerous) polyps that continue to grow and eventually turn into malignant tumors.
Other types of colon cancer causes include:
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST) – these tumors develop in the muscle tissue of the digestive tract, but rarely appear in the colon. They can start out being noncancerous at first, but most do eventually become cancerous. At this stage, these tumors are referred to as sarcomas. The typical treatment is surgery if the tumor hasn’t spread.
- Carcinoids – these tumors are created by special hormone-producing cells within the intestine. More often than not, there are no symptoms. Treatment normally requires surgery.
- Lymphoma – this form of cancer normally begins developing in the body’s lymph nodes but can also form in the colon or rectum. Other types of Lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and cutaneous lymphoma.
- Turcot Syndrome – although rare, this condition includes colorectal polyposis, colon cancer and even brain tumors. This disorder is considered to be genetically heterogeneous since mutations have been found in phenotypes produced by mutations at more than one gene or genetic mechanism.
- Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome (PJS) – this disorder is affiliated with such characteristics as Melanocytic macules. Symptoms are usually dark blue or brown moles located around and/or in the mouth including the lips, and around the eyes, nostrils and possibly on fingers. Multiple polyps form in the gastrointestinal tract. Increased risk of benign tumors of genitalia and cancers of the stomach, esophagus, breast, colon and pancreas. This affliction is normally caused by mutations in a tumor suppressing gene known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
- Familial Colorectal Cancer (FCC) – this genetic syndrome includes either familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). Families sharing this type of colon cancer seem to follow a pattern of inheritance known as autosomal dominant. Inpiduals with autosomal dominant diseases have a 50-50 chance of passing the mutant gene on to their children as well as the development of colon cancer.
- Juvenile Polyposis Coli – Although rare, this childhood-onset disease is also an autosomal dominant disorder resulting from mutations in a range of cancer vulnerability genes. This condition is affiliated with the development of a few to many polyps that develop throughout the gastrointestinal tract. It is usually associated with an increased chance for gastrointestinal and pancreatic cancers.
Before a doctor can perform a diagnosis, he or she will need to perform a complete physical examination. Also, the doctor will need to collect information about your past medical history as well as your family’s medical history. Usually, a diagnosis cannot be made until procedures such as a colonoscopy or a barium enema x-ray are administered and results are obtained.
Treatment ultimately depends on the stage of the cancer, age, health status and other crucial characteristics. Treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of all treatment options. As with most types of cancer, if it is found early, surgery offers a better possibility for a cure.
If you are seeking colon cancer treatment in San Antonio, the specialists at the Digestive & Liver Disease of San Antonio can create a treatment plan just for you. Call (210) 941-1662 or visit our website to get started today.