5 Lesser Known Signs of Colon Cancer
Research shows colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in America.1 Like bowel and rectal cancer, colon cancer involves the lower digestive system. This is why so many people tend to confuse these similar cancers. To distinguish which type the patient actually has, doctors must find out where the cancer actually starts.
Let’s take a closer look at colon cancer.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
1. Constantly Feeling Drained
Fatigue is one of the overlooked early symptoms of colon cancer. This persistent tiredness often stems from an iron deficiency. The gradual loss of blood will ultimately lead to lower iron levels.
2. Bloated, Crampy Stomach
Constipation is yet another common sign of colon cancer. The person will often feel like their bowel isn’t completely emptying. Along with the constipation usually comes abdominal pain. In some cases, even gas will be difficult to expel.
3. Bloody Stools That Come and Go
Understandably, many people become alarmed after noticing blood in their stool. Although the bleeding associated with colon cancer may go away for a few weeks, it will eventually start to reoccur. Because of the internal bleeding, some individuals will have a hard time catching their breath.
4. Unexplained Weight Loss
Although a person may be eating normally, colon cancer can still cause them to experience weight loss. This is a result of the disease hindering the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Vomiting often occurs during the later stages of colon cancer as a tumor could be blocking the bowel.
Risk Factors of Colon Cancer
People who aren’t physically active are definitely at a greater risk of developing colon cancer. This is why health experts stress the importance of exercising regularly.
Not only does being overweight elevate the risk of colon cancer, but it also makes the individual more prone to dying from the disease. It’s a good idea for everyone to maintain a healthy weight.
Regardless of age, anyone can get colon cancer. Nevertheless, individuals 50 and older are far more likely.2
Racial and Ethnic Background
Research indicates African Americans have the highest occurrence of colon cancer in the country. However, a greater number of young white Americans are starting to die from it.3
A person’s diet can impact their ability to fend off colon cancer. Diets that are high in red and processed meats are especially bad. On the other side of the coin, fruits and vegetables can lower the risk.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease has been traced to colon cancer. The longer a person has inflammatory bowel disease, the greater the risk of colon cancer.
Smoking and Heavy Alcohol Consumption
Like so many other serious ailments, smoking and heavy alcohol use are linked to colon cancer. These are two of the most preventable risk factors.
Treatments for Colon Cancer
Surgery is often the first course of action for colon cancer. The goal is to remove the cancerous tumor. However, parts of the healthy tissue may be removed as well.
Typically, colon cancer patients have access to more than one type of surgery. If the person is in the early stages of colon cancer, a polypectomy may be recommended. It involves removing small cancers on the lining of the colon with an electric current.
More advanced colon cancer will likely require a colectomy, which is the partial or complete removal of the colon. While an open colectomy consists of making a single incision in the abdomen, a laparoscopic-assisted colectomy is done by performing several small incisions. While the recovery time for a laparoscopic-assisted colectomy is much shorter, it is by far the most difficult type of surgery.
Radiation therapy is the second most preferred way to tackle colon cancer. The objective of radiation therapy is to kill the cancerous cells. It’s typically performed after the original surgery to prevent spreading. Although radiation therapy is painless, many people report a high incidence of nausea.
Chemotherapy is primarily for late-stage colon cancer. While chemotherapy can effectively kill the cancers, it involves the use of powerful drugs. Some of the most problematic side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, low blood counts, loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, and skin lesions.
Prognosis of Colon Cancer
A lot of scientists hold immunotherapy in high regard. It seeks to help the body to naturally fight against colon cancer. Immunotherapy requires the use of checkpoint blockers, which are drugs designed to free the immune system to fight cancerous cells.
Although immunotherapy has a long way to go, some experts predict immunotherapy to be the wave of the future. If immunotherapy proves to be successful, colon cancer patients won’t have to endure the risks associated with surgery and chemotherapy.
Researchers are putting a great deal of hope in cancer vaccines. Cancer vaccines are designed to function just like a seasonal flu vaccine. They essentially alert your body to eliminate the antigens thought to cause the cancer.4
If a vaccine for colon cancer is developed, the risk of developing the disease will be curbed dramatically. While a colon cancer vaccine is not readily available, they can be obtained through clinical trials.
As mentioned earlier, certain foods make people more susceptible to colon cancer. There are also some foods that can potentially prevent the disease.
Folate, which is an important B vitamin, may reduce your risk. Some of the best sources of folate include spinach, asparagus, and certain beans. Found in foods like apples and berries, quercetin is another antioxidant seen to fight colon cancer. White tea is also a potential colon cancer fighter. When given to mice during a special study, this powerful tea reduced their number of tumors.5