Colon cancer arises from the uncontrolled growth of cells within the colon. Though it may take years to manifest, its early stages often display abnormal tissue growth called polyps. Left untreated or not removed, these polyps have the potential to develop into cancer.

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

  • Personal History of Polyps: Predominantly found on the large intestine's wall, these non-malignant growths can, over time, lead to colon cancer.
  • Age: Predominantly affecting those over the age of 50, colon cancer is found in 90% of individuals in this age bracket.
  • IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease): Conditions like Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease amplify colon cancer risks.
  • Family History: An immediate family member diagnosed with colon cancer before 60 increases one's vulnerability.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Obesity, lack of exercise, and smoking have been linked to a heightened risk of colon cancer.

Spotting the Symptoms of Colon Cancer

People with colon cancer might not experience obvious symptoms, making it hard to detect. Moreover, other diseases showcase similar symptoms, adding to the confusion. Nonetheless, it's crucial to consult a medical professional if you notice:

  • Changes in bowel habits like diarrhoea or constipation
  • Presence of blood in the stool, whether bright red or dark
  • Stools becoming narrower
  • Abdominal discomfort, including burning, bloating, or cramps
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent fatigue or weakness
  • Anemia

Colon Cancer Screening Methods

To prevent colon cancer, it's essential to detect polyps early on. Both men and women should start screenings at 50. Available methods include:

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): A test to identify polyps or cancer cells. Annual testing is particularly effective.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: A doctor uses a tube to inspect the colon's lower part for polyps and can remove any anomalies discovered.
  • Colonoscopy: Allows for a comprehensive examination of the large bowel.
  • Alternative Methods: If colonoscopy isn't feasible, the Double Contrast Barium Enema (DCBE) and CT scan can be used.

Diagnosing Colon Cancer

Physicians employ various tests to ascertain cancer presence and check for its spread. Diagnostic methods are based on age, patient health, cancer type, symptom severity, and prior test results. These methods include:

  • Biopsy: The gold standard for colon cancer detection.
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA): A blood test to determine red blood cell count or measure protein levels.
  • Imaging Tests: CT Scan, Ultrasound, Chest X-ray, and PET Scan.

Colon Cancer Treatment Approaches

An interdisciplinary team of professionals like surgeons, radiologists, and oncologists will develop an individualised treatment plan, considering:

  • Cancer cell characteristics
  • Disease stage and spread
  • Patient’s overall health

Treatment Options for Colon Cancer

  • Surgery: Removing the cancerous portion.
  • Radiotherapy: Using radiation to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Employing drugs to target cancer cells.
  • Targeted Therapy: Drugs designed specifically for certain cancer types.
  • Angiogenesis: Interrupting the blood supply to the cancer cells.