The majority of colon cancer cases start as benign (noncancerous) cell clumps (adenomatous polyps). These polyps are the beginning signs of colon cancer. If polyps are caught in time, there is a greater chance of reducing cancer risk. Doctors advise regular screening to identify polyps, allowing for removal before they become cancerous.
One significant factor in colon cancer is age. It is generally suggested people be screened for the disease starting at 50. Depending on your risk, doctors may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings.
Most signs of colon cancer are potential, but not definitive, risk. But they are indications one should get tested as soon as possible.
- Unusual changes in bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhea or an odd inconsistency to stool. If this lasts longer than a month, make an appointment with a doctor.
- There is rectal bleeding in the stool.
- You have persistent gas, pain, cramps or other abdominal discomfort.
- There is an unexplained and gradual weight loss.
- You’re experiencing unusual fatigue or weakness.
Colon cancer results when healthy colon DNA cells are corrupted. Normally, healthy cells grow and divide in a way that allows normal body function. When the cells’s DNA is damaged, they can become cancerous. Unfortunately, those cells will continue to divide even when systems don’t need them. The cells will accumulate and form tumors. Over time, cancerous cells grow, expand and destroy normal tissue. The cells can travel to other parts of the body.
Heredity increases the risk of colon cancer. A gene mutation associated with colon cancer can be inherited, passed down generation to generation. But even those with inherited gene mutations do not necessarily become cancer victims. In fact, only a tiny percentage of people born with the mutation develop cancer. But tests do demonstrate the mutated gene increases the chance of cancer significantly.
Studies have linked the risk of colon cancer to Western diet, which tend to be rich in fat and low in fiber. Another notable factor about colon cancer are a greater number of sufferers in African-American communities. Other groups with a high risk include the obese, smokers, diabetics and alcoholics. There is a higher risk in patients with chronic inflammatory colon diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. People who live a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop signs of colon cancer than those who engage in regular physical activity. Radiation therapy on the abdomen may also increase colon cancer risk.