Colon Cancer, Is It Life Threatening?
Colon cancer is a type of malignant tumor that develops in the colon. Colon cancer, which begins as polyps (benign growths), can lead to further complications if not treated right away. Colon cancer symptoms vary depending on how advanced it has become. It is life-threatening if left untreated for too long, but treatment options are available and usually successful.
Symptoms can differ depending on whether the disease is still contained within the colon's inner lining or has progressed into deeper layers of bowel tissue surrounding it. Cancers that have spread beyond the inner layer present different symptoms than those confined to that layer alone. However, a further complicating diagnosis is that these often begin with no signs at all. Colon polyps, for example, a precancerous condition that develops from tissue growths, is asymptomatic.
Treatment typically starts with surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue and part of the colon itself. In some cases, this may be enough to eradicate the cancer cells without further required action. Still, should it prove necessary, doctors will likely recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments. There are also support groups for those who need emotional support while undergoing treatment.Treatment options like chemo and radiotherapy can result in nausea, fatigue, hair loss, and other side effects; these procedures should only be undergone under close medical supervision.
What Are The Risk Factors for Colon Cancer?
Risk factors for developing colorectal cancer include a family history of colorectal or uterine cancer; inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis; use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for extended periods; chemical exposure; smoking; poor diet; obesity; physical inactivity, and old age. Colon cancer is also rising among young adults between 20 and 39 years old.
Stages are determined by how far the colorectal cells have spread beyond the colon's inner lining. Colon cancers that remain confined to that layer are called Stage I Colon Cancers, while those that begin to invade surrounding layers are labeled Stage II Colon Cancers. Stage III Colon Cancers involve tumors that spread into other tissues but not yet outside the bowel itself. Colon Cancers are classified as Stage IV. Colon Cancers have spread to other organs or body parts.
The survival rate is greatly improved when the tumor remains contained within the colon. Cancers that stay in the deepest layer of bowel tissues, called the submucosa, may at first seem benign but can progress quickly if left untreated; these tumors carry a poorer prognosis than those confined to inner layers only. However, there are still cases where even this kind of cancer will prove fatal. Colon cancer tends to be slow-moving and responds well to treatment, so early detection and prompt treatment can help maximize your chances for a cure.
Who gets Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer strikes an estimated 51,000 people yearly in the United States alone. Colon cancer affects men and women equally, though some studies show that African Americans are at a higher risk for developing it. Other significant risk factors include smoking, old age, obesity, diet, family history of colon cancer or rectal cancer, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, exposure to chemicals like asbestos or arsenic, early onset of menstruation before age 12, late onset of menopause after age 55