The human colon is a muscular, tube-shaped organ measuring about 4 feet long. It extends from the end of your small bowel to your anus, twisting and turning through your abdomen (belly). The colon has 3 main functions.
To digest and absorb nutrients from food
To concentrate fecal material by absorbing fluid (and electrolytes) from it
To store and control evacuation of fecal material
Colon Cancer Symptoms
Cancer of the colon and rectum can exhibit itself in several ways. If you have any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical help.
You may notice bleeding from your rectum or blood mixed with your stool.
People commonly attribute all rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids, thus preventing early diagnosis owing to lack of concern over “bleeding hemorrhoids.”
Rectal bleeding may be hidden and chronic and may show up as an iron deficiency anemia.
It may be associated with fatigue and pale skin.
It usually, but not always, can be detected through a fecal occult (hidden) blood test, in which samples of stool are submitted to a lab for detection of blood.
Colon Cancer Causes
Most colorectal cancers arise from adenomatous polyps-clusters of abnormal cells in the glands covering the inner wall of the colon. Over time, these abnormal growths enlarge and ultimately degenerate to become adenocarcinomas.
People with any of several conditions known as adenomatous polyposis syndromes have a greater-than-normal risk of colorectal cancer.
In these conditions, numerous adenomatous polyps develop in the colon, ultimately leading to colon cancer.
The cancer usually occurs before age 40 years.
Adenomatous polyposis syndromes tend to run in families. Such cases are referred to as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). Celecoxib (Celebrex) has been FDA approved for FAP. After 6 months, celecoxib reduced the mean number of rectal and colon polyps by 28% compared to placebo (sugar pill) 5%.
Colon Cancer Treatment
The primary treatment of colon cancer is to surgically remove part or all of your colon. Suggestive polyps, if few in number, may be removed during colonoscopy.
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Chemotherapy after surgery can prolong survival for people whose cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Radiation treatment after surgery does not help people with colon cancer, but it does prolong survival for people with rectal cancer.
Given before surgery, radiation may reduce tumor size. This can improve the chances that the tumor will be removed successfully. Radiation before surgery also appears to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after treatment.
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