Colon cancer: symptoms and treatment
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer affecting humans, and it ranks third among all types of cancer. This article explains the most important medical facts related to colon cancer.
What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer results from the random and uncontrolled proliferation of colon cells, which increases cell division rates, which can cause narrowing of the colon lumen.
Despite its prevalence, colon cancer causes many deaths, as it is the second most common cause of cancer deaths, with numbers reaching about one million deaths per year. (1)
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, (IARC)It also suggests that the number of new infections will increase between 2020 and 2040, and that it may reach about 3 million new infections per year. The death toll may rise by almost 69%.
Infections in the Asian continent account for almost half of the total number of injuries and deaths, and these cases are mainly concentrated in China and Japan.
These numbers, and many more, make colon cancer research and awareness very important.
Colon cancer symptoms
A patient with cancer may not have significant symptoms. There may be some mild symptoms of no interest to the patient.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), About 90% of infected people have at least one of the following symptoms:
- Changes in digestive habits: an increase in the number of needs, and the stool is soft and close to liquid, and this is usually accompanied by abdominal pain.
- Passing blood with the stool, and this is called “bloody stool”, without the presence of symptoms of anal hemorrhoids, which are one of the causes of bloody stool.
- Abdominal pain, bloating and constant discomfort that comes with eating. It reduces the patient’s desire for food, which can cause weight loss.
- Constipation: Difficulty defecating may occur with thickening and hardening of the stool. This symptom, if it appears in patients with colon cancer, usually indicates that the disease has reached a serious stage.
Although these symptoms are present in colon cancer, they do not necessarily mean the presence of colon tumors, since these symptoms are common symptoms of other diseases that are not serious in the digestive system.
Cancer can sometimes cause a blockage in the digestive system, preventing the passage of waste (2).
This is known as intestinal obstruction. The symptoms for this are:
- There is intermittent abdominal pain after eating, and it can be severe at times.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- persistent gases
- Fatigue and general fatigue
The previous case is considered one of the serious cases that require immediate intervention.
Stages of infection
In order to understand the stages of infection, it is necessary to understand the structure of the large intestine (colon). The large intestine can be described as a tube consisting of three main layers of cells:
- The inner layer is called the mucosa, and the section closest to the colon cavity is called the endothelium.
- Then the deeper layer, called the muscle layer.
- Then we reach the outer layer, called the serous or lipid layer (3).
Accordingly, the stages of colon cancer development were divided into:
- Step 0: Cancer cells are still in the wall of the mucous layer.
- Level 1 The cancer becomes deeper than before in the mucous layer.
- level2 Cancer invades the muscular layer of the colon.
- Step 3: The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- Step 4 This is considered the last stage of cancer development, where it reaches other organs outside the colon.
The above is useful in determining the treatment plan the patient will undergo, and the method of its implementation.
causes colon cancer
There is no explanation for the occurrence of cancer so far, but the occurrence of mutations and disruption in the DNA of cells, will lead to the beginning of the division of the colon cells in a random and uncontrollable manner.
In many cases, the body’s immune system attacks and kills these disturbed cells. However, if it survives, it begins to multiply and divide randomly, and cancer develops (4).
Although there is no clear cause, several factors have been identified that increase or decrease the risk of colon cancer.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of infection
There are many factors that lead to the development of colon cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)Colon cancer risk may increase with all of the following:
- the age: The possibility of infection increases after the age of 50, since most new infections occur at this age.
- Family history of colon cancer: Having a first degree relative (father, brother or son) increases the risk of infection.
- Previous colon cancer or related diseases: If the person himself is exposed to one of the following situations, the chance of infection increases, such as:
- Previous cancer and treatment.
- The presence of so-called colon polyps or polyps in the patient. Colon polyps are protrusions of clusters of cells within the lumen of the colon, each of which may reach a height of more than 1 cm.
- Previous ovarian cancer.
- There is a type of IBD, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- drink alcohol: Drinking more than three alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of infection.
- Cigarette smoking: Smoking is associated with an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer, and it also increases the risk of “polyps” forming.
- Smokers are at high risk of recurring polyps after surgery.
- sweat: Black people are considered to be at higher risk of infection than others.
- obesity: Obesity increases the risk of infection and death from infection.
Factors that reduce the risk of infection
Although it is not clear how colon cancer occurs, oncology organizations such as the American Cancer Society American Cancer Society This refers to many factors that may prevent colon cancer, the most important of which are the following:
- Exercise: Regular exercise reduces the risk of injury.
- aspirin: Taking aspirin reduces the risk of developing and dying from colon cancer in those who take the drug for any reason for more than 10 to 14 years. (5).
- Hormone replacement drugs: which women take after menopause, since hormonal drugs containing female hormones have a positive effect in preventing advanced colon cancer in postmenopausal women.
- However, these drugs increase, at the same time, the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and blood clots (6).
- Removal of polyps or colon polyps: Since these healthy tumors increase the risk of developing cancer, they are removed and treated. Especially those that are longer than 1 cm, prevents the risk of developing cancer.
Complications of colon cancer
A patient with colon cancer may experience several complications related to the development of the tumor. Some may be dangerous or life-threatening, such as:
- bleeding out: The patient experiences slight but persistent bleeding within the digestive system, and for a long period of time before it is sometimes detected, which causes:
- anemia: The number of red blood cells decreases and he may lose consciousness at times. In some cases, this symptom may be the indicator that prompts the patient to visit a doctor and then diagnose the infection.
- Blood in the stool Bleeding from the right side of the colon causes black stools.
- While the bleeding in the left part of the large intestine causes clear blood mixed in the stool, and this is known as bloody stool.
- Insufficiency and failure of the circulatory system: The occurrence of severe and rapid bleeding results in a rapid decrease in blood volume within the blood vessels, and the body’s inability to compensate for the deficiency.
- The above is considered an emergency that requires treatment as soon as possible.
- obstruction: Delay in diagnosis and initiation of treatment may cause the tumor to grow and increase its size, to an extent that may lead to the closing of the lumen of the large intestine.
- This leads to expansion in front of the site of the blockage, in addition to the loss of important fluids and minerals.
- Colon perforation: As a result of an ulcer at the site of the colon cancer and its weakening to the layers of the colon, a hole may form in the wall, so that the waste inside the colon may reach the abdominal cavity.
- This is a very serious condition, but it is rare. (7)
Colon cancer diagnosis
The doctor begins by examining the patient and recording all the symptoms and signs appearing on the patient while taking his and his family members’ medical history. All this will help the doctor towards the diagnosis.
1 – Laboratory studies
- Perform a complete CBC blood cell count.
- Performing tests related to liver function and blood minerals.
- Measuring the blood proteins that rise in the case of some types of cancer, and they are called “tumor markers”.
2- Radiological study
- Mini chest photo.
- CT scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis.
- Making a picture of the stomach using the paint.
- Ultrasound of the abdomen and liver.
- Magnetic resonance imaging of the abdomen and pelvis (MRI).
- The body scan using a PET scan.
3- Some other procedures
- A sample of areas that may be affected by cancer
Colon cancer treatment
1- Treatment of early cases of infection
There are several approaches to treating early cases of colon cancer, as follows:
- surgery: It is the first line of treatment for early cases of colon cancer. Here, the surgeon removes the tumor along with some of the surrounding tissue.
- Radiation therapy: They are usually used before surgery to ensure that small microscopic cells outside the tumor have been removed.
- Chemotherapy after surgery: This is done after surgery to ensure that the cancer does not come back (recurrence).
2- Treatment of advanced cases of infection
As for the treatment of late cases, the treatment is as follows:
- Systemic treatment: (medicines that affect the whole body) are used in case the tumor cannot be completely eradicated, and that is in advanced cases.
- surgery: Here surgery is performed to reduce the symptoms and not to remove the cancerous mass.
- As if part of the tumor was removed due to a complete blockage in the large intestine cavity, this only helps relieve the patient’s symptoms.
To study cancer survival after diagnosis.
The so-called “life expectancy 5 years after diagnosis” was determined, which is about 67% for colon cancer.
Accordingly, the five-year survival rates are divided as follows:
- A cancer that is still in the same area where it originated, the probability of surviving for five years is about 90%.
- Cancer that has reached areas and organs close to the location of the tumor or the lymph nodes, is about 73%.
- Cancer that has spread to areas and organs far from the original growth site, is about 17%.