Colon cancer signs and symptoms

Many symptoms may be related to colon cancer. Following are some of them:  

  • Frequent change in your bowel habit; constipation or diarrhea,
  • Change in the shape of stool; thinning of stool,
  • Persistent urgent feeling that one needs to defecate which will not be eased by defecating,
  • Blood mixed with stool,
  • Dark colored stool,
  • Bleeding per rectum,
  • Cramping in the belly,
  • Frequent Pain in the belly,
  • Persistent fatigue,
  • Unintentional loss of weight.

Almost all above symptoms can be caused by benign conditions such as hemorrhoids, infection, and inflammatory bowel disease, but they may be also an early
symptom(s) of colon cancer. It is better to be suspicious than to regret later! If you have any of above symptoms, contact your doctor to guide you to the diagnosis
and treatment.

Colon Cancer Treatment

There are four options for the treatment of colon cancer:

  1. Surgical option,
  2. Radiotherapy option,
  3. Chemotherapy option,
  4. Special targeted therapy option.

The decision to use any of the above treatment options depends on the stage of colon cancer. In some case, it’s possible to use more than one option to treat the
colon cancer. After colon cancer diagnosis, the options of treatment need to be discussed between patient and oncologist to choose the best treatment modality after
understanding the advantages and the disadvantages of each modality.

What you need to know about colon cancer prevention

After recent improvements in the field of colon cancer screening during the past decades, more and more people survive colon cancer via early diagnosis through
adopting the recommended screening guidelines. The aims of colon cancer screening tests are to diagnose the presence of precancerous tissues, thus removing it
through surgery before it is converted into cancerous cells.   

It’s recommended to do regular screening tests for colon cancer starting at age of 50. People with suggestive family history or with multiple risk factors of colon
cancer should consult their physician early to choose the proper type and frequency of colon cancer screening!   

Types of screening test for colon cancer

  • Colonoscopy: It’s simply the process of using a small scope with long tube which ends with small camera. It’s used to visualize the whole colon and rectum.
    During this process, any precancerous tissues called polyps will be removed and sent them to the histopathology lab. Usually before performing this test, the
    doctor will ask the patient to adopt a special diet and laxatives to prepare bowel movement, thus making the colon clean for visualization. Colonoscopy is
    usually performed under sedation.

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Technically, it’s the same process as colonoscopy except that Flexible sigmoidoscopy is used to visualize small part of the
    colon which is named sigmoid colon. If the doctor visualizes polyps during this test, he can remove them or ask for a full colonoscopy later on. Flexible
    sigmoidoscopy can be performed without sedation.

  • Double-contrast barium enema: It’s a form of x-ray after giving the patient certain type of enema. If any suspicious areas were seen during Double-
    contrast barium enema, colonoscopy should be performed soon.

  • CT colonography (also called virtual colonoscopy): It’s a detailed scan of whole colon. It requires no sedation. If any suspicious areas were seen
    through CT colonography, colonoscopy should be performed as soon as possible.

  • Fecal occult blood test: This is a lab test for stool aimed at detecting any small amount of fresh blood which may indicate the possibility of having
    precancerous polyps or even cancer. It can be performed in home via using special home kit. Positive test indicates the need of colonoscopy. Although it can
    be positive in some benign conditions such as hemorrhoids.

How to decrease risk of colon cancer?

Adopting a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet, reduction of excess weight, and regular exercising are very crucial to prevent colon cancer. Eating more fruits, whole
grains, vegetables may contribute preventing it. Eating less beef, pork, lamb, hot dogs, and other processed meat will help fighting colon cancer. One should also
limit alcohol intake to less than two drinks daily for men, and one drink for women. Stay slim via regular exercising; this will lower the colon cancer risk. Quitting
smoking is very important as well.

Overview on stages of colon cancer

The term “stage” means the description of the extent of certain type of cancer in the body, it’s one of the most crucial factors when deciding the cancer treatment
options as well as their outcomes.

Clinically, colon cancer stages depend on different diagnostic methods such as physical exam, biopsy of the cancer itself, CT scan, MRI scan, and other diagnostic
modalities. There are two ways to determine the stage of colon cancer:

  1. The clinical based staging; depends on the doctor’s examination, the biopsy from cancer, and other imaging modalities.
  2. The pathologic staging; depends on the surgical appearance of the cancer in addition to the clinical based staging.

Colon cancer staging (TNM system)

The standard staging system for colon cancer is named the TNM system. In this system, certain letters and numbers are used to give certain piece of information.
The “TNM” stands for:

  • T stands for Tumor; the extension of spread of the tumor itself within the wall of the colon.
  • N stands for Nodes; the possible extension of cancer into the lymph nodes.
  • M stands for Metastasis; it is the extension of the tumor into other parts in the human body.

The numbers which are written after the T, N, M indicate the severity. The letter "X" after T, N, M indicates that this part can’t be assessed.

T staging of colon cancer

  • TX stands for the inconclusive information about the extension of the tumor.
  • TIS stand for the inner layer of the colon which is known as mucosa; this is pathologically named as carcinoma in situ.
  • T0 stands for no cancer in any layer of the colon.  
  • T1-T4 stands for the extension of caner into different layers of the colon.

N staging of colon cancer

  • NX stands for the inconclusive information about the involvement of lymph nodes.
  • N0 stands for no involvement of the lymph nodes.
  • N1 stands for the involvement of the lymph nodes, not more than three lymph nodes.
  • N2 stands for the involvement of the lymph nodes, more than four lymph nodes.

M staging of colon cancer

  • MX stands for the inconclusive information about the involvement of distant organs.
  • M0 stands for no involvement in the distant organs.
  • M1 stands for the involvement of the distant organs.

Grouping of TNM data

After determining the value of T, N, and M, the data will be grouped to find out what would be the stage of colon cancer (0 to stage IV).
The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome will be. Survival rates in early stages, especially stage I and II, are very high in comparison with stage III. Stage IV
owns the worst prognosis among all the other stages. More screening tests are available nowadays, it’s very important to consult your doctor about different colon
tests and their timing.

"Regular screening that leads to early detection is the key to survive colon cancer."


Cancer Society of America | Colon Cancer | Cause, Symptoms & Risk Factors of Cancer | Cancer Diagnosis | Cancer Prevention, Early Detection & Treatment

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Colon cancer is a type of cancer that may occur anywhere in
the colon. It’s a very common type of cancer worldwide. The
screening programs to detect it early. Learning about colon cancer
is very crucial part of prevention.

Facts about colon cancer

  • Colon cancer is number three on the list of the most common types of cancer,
  • Colon cancer is the second killer in the list of cancer deaths in the United States,
  • More than 100,000 cases are diagnosed with colon cancer yearly,
  • Approximately 5% of normal population have risk of being diagnosed with colon cancer during their lifespan.

Colon cancer causes

As with all types of cancer, there is no specific cause for colon cancer. Multiple risk factors may contribute to the etiology of colon
cancer. Following are the most important risk factors:

  • Age: the chance of getting colon cancer will increase after age of 50,   
  • Previous history of colon cancer or colon polyps,
  • History of inflammatory bowel disease especially Ulcerative Colitis,
  • History of colon cancer in the family,
  • Family history of inherited colon cancer syndrome.




Colon Cancer

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