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What is "colon cancer"?

Colon Cancer

Siamak Tabib (Gastroenterologist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA) gives expert video advice on: How do I know if I am at risk for colon cancer?; What are some of the symptoms of colon cancer?; What are some colon cancer prevention tips? and more...

What is "colon cancer"?

Colon cancer is the growth of an abnormal tissue or many cells that comprise a tumour that is malignant, meaning cancerous. This tumour can grow anywhere along the lining of the rectum or the large intestine, which is generally referred to as colorectal cancer.

What are some of the symptoms of colon cancer?

Symptoms of colon cancer in the early stages may not be present at all. Sometimes it is towards the later stages of colon cancer when people start becoming symptomatic. Those symptoms include bleeding from the rectum or in the stool, deficiency in iron in the body (anemia), abdominal pain, changes in the bowel habits, inability to have normal bowel movements, weight loss or general fatigue and being rundown.

What is a "sigmodioscopy"?

A sigmodioscopy is a procedure where a flexible camera is inserted in the rectum and the lower part of the colon in order to evaluate for the presence of polyps.

What is a "colonoscopy"?

A colonoscopy is a procedure where a flexible instrument called a colonoscope is inserted in the rectum and advanced into the large intestine for a full and accurate view of the lining of the large intestine. Should polyps be seen at the time of this colonoscopy procedure, they can be easily removed, which can prevent future colon cancer. This colonoscopy procedure is generally carried out with sedation for patients' comfort.

What is the treatment for colon cancer?

The treatment for colon cancer, initially, generally centers around the removal of the cancer or tumor. This is done by surgery. Depending on the involvement of the colon cancer, and involvement of any potential adjacent or more distant organs, then other modalities, such as chemotherapy, may be recommended. Other treatments for colon cancer include radiation, sometimes to shrink the size of the tumor, if the tumor is not amendable to surgical recession at the time of diagnosis.

What are some colon cancer prevention tips?

Colon cancer prevention tips are to have a healthy lifestyle; to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables which contain fibre and to eat foods that are healthier and non-toxic. Sometimes we have recommended patients to reduce red meat intake to decrease chances of colon cancer. We have at times also recommended the use of aspirin or other agents to decrease the incidence or chances of acquiring colon cancer. For the most part, however, in the long-term studies that are available none of these modalities have really helped. Unfortunately, colon cancer is something that can only be prevented by removing benign polyps that form prior to the cancerous stage.

Can colon cancer be cured?

Colon cancer can be cured if discovered early. It is important to note that colon cancer can be completely prevented to avoid having cancer in the first place. But if we find colon cancer in it's early stages, it is over 9% curable. It is only the late stages of colon cancer where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body that life expectancy decreases. However, every day there are new techniques, medications and chemotherapeutic agents showing more promise for those people who suffer from the colon cancer condition who, till now, have not been able to receive a cure.