Colon and Colorectal Cancer Facts and Risks

Colon cancer is a malignant tumor inside the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. When it occurs in the last 6 inches of the colon, it is rectal cancer. Together, they’re referred to as colorectal cancer.

Most cases begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Although not all polyps develop into cancer, when they do, it takes ten years. When detected early by colonoscopy, these polyps can immediately be removed in the same session. Therefore, the colonoscope can prevent or at least delay the development of colon cancer. Though ten years seems enough to identify and treat cancerous development, it is difficult to discern any growth for several years.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer and the third most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Despite its high incidence, it is highly treatable, with a 90 percent five-year survival rate when detected early.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer:

Men tend to develop colorectal cancer at an earlier age than women. However, the total number of cases in men and women is close to equal. The average age at the diagnosis is 68 for men and 72 years for women, and 92% of cases occur in persons 50 years of age or older. Rectal cancer develops earlier. The average age at the diagnosis is 63 for both sexes.

You have a higher risk for colon cancer if you have:

  • Colorectal polyps
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • A family history of colon cancer
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Age is over 50

Symptoms of colorectal cancer:

  • Bleeding through the rectum
  • Black or bloody stool
  • Weakness
  • Change in bowel movements
  • Bloating
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss

Symptoms often resemble other abdominal conditions. It can be challenging to get a correct diagnosis when many illnesses carry similar signs. For this reason, seek medical attention if experiencing the above signs.

Symptoms diverge and depend on the size and location of the tumor within the colon or rectum, though there may be no symptoms at all. The most common sign is rectal bleeding. Tumors on the descending side of the colon generally cause bleeding, and in their late stages may cause diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, and obstructive symptoms. On the other hand, if it’s on the right side, it may produce vague abdominal pain but are unlikely to cause obstruction or altered bowel habit.


Colonoscopy and biopsy are currently the only reliable screening methods. It’s adequate for the average-risk person at 10-year intervals. Colonoscopy needs to be done at more often for individuals at high risk — those with previously discovered adenomatous polyps, a family history of colorectal cancer, non-hereditary polyposis, treated colorectal cancer or having a predisposing condition. If you have diagnosed with colorectal cancer, more tests will be done to see if it has spread.

Colon Cancer Prevention

To avoid this ailment, people should do regular tests for blood in the stool with the new, easy-to-use fecal occult blood test. FOBT is available for at-home screening and is explicitly designed to detect colon cancer at its earliest stages. Men over the age of 50 and women over 55 should have this test on an annual basis to detect colon cancer early.
It appears that increasing the fiber in the diet would be useful in the primary prevention of colorectal cancer. Just as well as at least 30-45 minutes of moderate physical activity on 3-4 days of the week. Several large-scale studies in humans indicate a role for increased dietary calcium in reducing colon cancer risk. Some say that the time has come for a scientific review of cereal-grain enrichment with calcium and vitamin D as a low-cost, safe, and useful route for the reduction of colon cancer in both men and women.


Patients, when receiving the diagnosis of colon cancer, become depressed and left with a lot of unanswered questions about their future. It’s vital for them to know that they are not alone in their fight and that their family is there to provide love and support.

If for some reason, a cancer patient cannot find support at home, it’s a good idea to join a support group and continue their involvement in the activity that they enjoy. If their health allows it, they should continue living a normal life and enjoying every day as possible. While the quality of life is essential, making sure to take time out for rest is one of the critical points for a successful recovery from any illness.

Immediately following diagnosis, a patient may want to search the internet for educational resources on the subject. It’s necessary to know and understand what is happening to us during an illness, treatments, and recovery.  Research, ask the physician a lot of questions and be prepared for best and worst-case scenarios.

Cancer Treatment:

Depending on how advanced the illness is, several treatment options are available. If the patient decides to move forward with treatment, may also wish to consult another physician for a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis and the recommended treatments. The best outcome is to eliminate cancer, but, if that is not possible, the doctor may be able to stop the tumor from spreading or to relieve the patient‘s symptoms and discomfort.


If the patient’s health will allow it and wishes to pursue treatments, the primary method of treatment is surgery. Depending on the size and the location of the tumor, a surgeon may be able to remove all or part of the colon. In some cases, following surgery, the patient has to wear a permanent colostomy bag. That occurs if the disease is so advanced that it is necessary to remove a large section of the colon.


Another common approach is to begin a series of chemotherapy treatments to rid the patient of any lingering cancerous cells following surgery. Also, chemotherapy controls the growth of cancer, can relieve symptoms, and can prolong life.

Radiation therapy

It often compliments the chemotherapy. Radiation destroys all cells. Therefore, it’s aimed directly at the tumor from at least three directions. Usually, 20-30 sessions applied.

This article is not a piece of medical advice. If concerned about the possibility of cancer, seek medical attention. A series of tests have to be conducted to confirm or rule out any such diagnosis.