What is Colon (Intestinal) Cancer?

Colon Cancer

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What is Colon (Intestinal) Cancer?

Colon (Intestinal) Cancer is a type of cancer that occurs as a result of abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the large intestine. Colon cancer is also called large intestine cancer. The large intestine is an organ that forms the last part of the digestive system and includes the colon and rectum. This type of cancer usually occurs in older adults, but can occur at any age.

Colon cancer usually begins with the formation of small cell clusters called polyps in the colon. These polyps are usually not cancerous, but in some cases they can turn cancerous over time. Since polyps do not cause symptoms in the body, it is of great importance to perform regular screening tests. Early detection and removal of polyps can help prevent cancer.

Colon cancer is also called “colorectal cancer.” This term brings together colon cancer and rectal cancer because both can develop in the large intestine and require similar treatment approaches.

What are The Causes and Risk Factors of Colon (Intestinal) Cancer?

Colon cancer is a complex disease that can develop as a result of the interaction of multiple factors.

  • Age:

Colon cancer generally increases with age. The risk is higher after age 50.

  • Family History and Genetics:

The risk may be increased in people with a family member who has a history of colon cancer or polyps. Some genetic syndromes may also increase the risk of colon cancer.

  • Personal Story:

The risk may be increased in people who have previously had colon cancer or intestinal polyps.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases:

Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, especially long-term ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, may increase the risk of colon cancer.

  • Hereditary Syndromes:

Inherited syndromes such as Lynch syndrome may increase the risk of colon cancer.

  • Diet:

A high-fat and low-fiber diet, processed meat consumption, and low fruit and vegetable consumption may increase the risk of colon cancer.

  • Obesity:

Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of colon cancer.

  • To Smoke:

Smoking can increase both the risk of colon cancer and the risk of other types of cancer.

  • Alcohol Consumption:

Excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of colon cancer.

  • Sedentary Lifestyle:

Lack of physical activity may increase the risk of colon cancer.

  • Radiation Exposure:

A history of radiation exposure may increase the risk of colon cancer.

What are The Symptoms of Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer symptoms include:

  1. Blood coming from the anus while defecating or blood in the stool.
  2. Change in bowel and toilet habits.
  3. Abdominal pain.
  4. Abdominal distension.
  5. Unexplained weight loss.
  6. Vomiting.
  7. Feeling tired and short of breath.

Colon cancer can occur without symptoms. If there are symptoms, it indicates that colon cancer is at a more advanced stage. That’s why colon cancer is considered a preventable and insidious type of cancer.

This is because some colon cancer symptoms are similar to symptoms of less serious conditions.

Common symptoms of colon cancer include:

  1. Seeing Blood in the Stool:

You may notice blood in the toilet after pooping or wiping. If there is active bleeding or dark or bright red blood during defecation, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible.
It is important to remember that bleeding during defecation does not always mean colon cancer.
Other things, from hemorrhoids to anal tears to eating beets, can also cause bleeding during defecation.
However, when bleeding is noticed during defecation, a differential diagnosis must be made by a doctor.However, when bleeding is noticed during defecation, a differential diagnosis must be made by a doctor.

  1. Change in Bowel and Toilet Habits:

  • If you have persistent constipation or diarrhea,
  • If there is a transparent saliva-like secretion in the stool while defecating, If pain is felt in the anus
  • and if complete emptying of the intestine is not felt even after defecation

These are symptoms of colon cancer.

  1. Abdominal Pain:

If you have abdominal pain that has no known cause, does not go away, or is very painful, talk to a healthcare professional.
Many things can cause abdominal pain.
However, if you have unusual or frequent abdominal pain, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional.

  1. Bloating (Distension):

There are many things that can cause abdominal bloating, such as abdominal pain. If abdominal bloating lasts longer than a week, gets worse, or other symptoms such as nausea or vomiting occur, colon cancer screening should be performed.

  1. Unexplained Weight Loss:

A visible decrease in body weight over time without trying to lose weight is among the symptoms of colon cancer.

  1. Vomiting:

If you vomit periodically for a known reason or if you vomit a lot in 24 hours, you may have an intestinal blockage due to colon cancer.

  1. Feeling of Fatigue and Shortness of Breath:

Colon cancer causes chronic blood loss. And the patient shows symptoms of anemia due to blood loss.
The main symptoms are fatigue and shortness of breath. Unexplained Anemia is a symptom of colon cancer.

What are The Stages of Colon (Intestinal) Cancer?

There are five stages of colon cancer. Three of these four stages have three substages.

Colon cancer stages are as follows:

  • Stage 0:

Specialist doctors may call this stage carcinoma in situ. This stage is the formation of abnormal or precancerous cells in your mucosa, the innermost layer of the colon wall.

  • Stage 1:

At this stage, colon cancer grows into the intestinal wall. And it has spread beyond the muscle layer or to nearby lymph nodes.

  • Stage 2:

The cancer has spread to the intestinal wall. But it has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.

There are three types of Stage 2:

  • Stage 2A:

The cancer has spread to most of the colon wall.
But it has not grown to the outer layer of the wall.

  • Stage 2B:

Cancer spreads to the outer layer of the colon wall or into the wall.

  • Stage 2C:

The cancer has spread to a nearby organ.

Stage 3:

At this stage, colon cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 3 colon cancer also has three substages.

  • Stage 3A:

Cancer is found in the first or second layers of the colon wall and has spread, on average, to one to four lymph nodes.

  • Stage 3B:

Cancer affects almost the entire colon wall.

  • Stage 3C:

There is cancer in the outer layer of the colon or in the lymph nodes. It is the stage of colon cancer that has spread to a nearby organ and lymph node.

Stage 4:

It is the stage when colon cancer metastasizes and spreads to other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs or ovaries.

  • Stage 4A:

At this stage, colon cancer has spread to another organ or lymph nodes.

  • Stage 4B:

The cancer has spread to more than one distant organ and more lymph nodes.

  • Stage 4C:

The cancer has spread to distant organs, lymph nodes, and abdominal tissue.

How is Colon (Intestinal) Cancer Diagnosed?

The most effective way to detect colon cancer at an early stage is regular endoscopic examinations. The first of these is colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is a procedure that can both detect an existing tumor at an early stage and protect the person from the development of cancer by detecting polyps and similar problems that may lead to cancer before they become cancerous. It is recommended that every individual over the age of 50 undergo colonoscopic examination at intervals of 2-5 years, depending on their risk status, personal health history and family history.

Colon cancer is diagnosed with some tests under the leadership of specialist physicians.

After the patient consults a doctor and undergoes a physical examination, the following tests can be performed:

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test:

This test is used to detect the presence of occult blood in the stool. Colon cancer or polyps can cause bleeding, so if blood is detected in the stool, further diagnostic testing may be done.

  • Stool DNA Test:

This test looks for signs of genetic mutations and blood products in your poop.

Radiological Examinations;

  • Lung X-ray,
  • Whole Abdominal Computed Tomography (CT),
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI),
  • Double Contrast Colon Radiograph Etc.

Endoscopic Examinations:

  • Colonoscopy:

It is the most commonly used method in the diagnosis of colon cancer. The inner surface of the rectum and large intestine is examined in detail with a flexible tube (endoscope). The doctor may observe cancerous tissue, perform a biopsy, or remove polyps.

  • Sigmoidoscopy:

It is a type of flexible endoscopy called a sigmoidoscope to see inside the sigmoid colon and rectum.

  • Rectoscopy:

It is a medical procedure that provides direct visual examination of the rectum and lower sigmoid colon. This procedure is often recommended for conditions such as rectal bleeding, chronic diarrhea, abnormal rectal exam findings, and a family history of colon cancer.

  • Biopsy:

Samples of tissues suspected of cancer are taken and examined under a microscope. Biopsy results can help determine the type and characteristics of cancer.

Laboratory Examinations:

  • Complete Blood Count (Hemogram):

It diagnoses patients with anemia, and anemia due to blood loss appears in colon cancer.

  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) Assay:

Cancer cells and normal cells release CEA into your bloodstream. High CEA levels may be a sign of colon cancer.

Colon (Intestinal) Cancer Treatment

Surgery is the most commonly used method of treating colon cancer. There are different colon cancer surgeries and procedures:

  • Polypectomy:

This surgery removes cancerous polyps.

  • Partial Colectomy:

This is also called colon resection surgery. Surgeons remove the section of your colon that contains a tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue. They will reconnect healthy sections of colon through a procedure called anastomosis.

  • Surgical Resection with Colostomy:

Like a colectomy, surgeons remove the part of your colon that contains the tumor. However, in this surgery, they cannot combine healthy colon sections. Instead, they perform a colostomy. In a colostomy, your intestine is moved to an opening in your abdominal wall so your poop is collected in a bag.

  • Radiofrequency Ablation:

This procedure uses heat to destroy cancer cells.

Surgery and adjuvant therapy may be combined. It is a cancer treatment performed before or after surgery. They may also use these treatments for colon cancer that has spread or returned.

  • Chemotherapy:

In advanced stage colon cancer, chemotherapy drugs may be used to shrink the tumor and relieve the symptoms of colon cancer. It can be given as neoadjuvant chemotherapy before surgery or as adjuvant chemotherapy after surgery.

  • Targeted Therapy:

This treatment targets genes, proteins, and tissues that help cells in colon cancer grow and multiply.

It often uses a type of targeted therapy called monoclonal antibody therapy. This therapy uses lab-created antibodies that bind to specific targets on cancer cells or cells that help cancer cells grow. Antibodies kill cancer cells.

Side Effects and Management in Colon (Intestinal) Cancer Treatment

Various side effects may occur depending on the methods used during colon cancer treatment. The type of treatment, dose, duration and personal factors (age, general health condition, etc.) may affect the severity and type of side effects.

Common side effects and management recommendations in colon cancer treatment:

  1. Chemotherapy Side Effects:

  • Nausea and Vomiting:

It can be controlled with antiemetic drugs.

  • Hair Loss:

Hair wigs or head scarves can be used to prevent hair loss.

  • Tiredness:

Rest and regular physical activity may help.

  • Immunosuppression (Weakening the Immune System):

It is important to observe hygiene rules to reduce the risk of infection.

  1. Radiotherapy Side Effects:

  • Skin Irritation:

It can be relieved with moisturizing creams and skin care products.

  • Tiredness:

It can be managed with regular rest and activity planning.

  • Intestinal Problems:

Paying attention to diet, drinking water and consuming fibrous foods to prevent constipation can help.

  1. “Intestinal Diversion Surgery (Colostomy) Side Effects:

  • Colostomy Care:

Stoma (Intestinal Hole) care and bag changing should be learned.

  • Psychological Effects:

Psychological support can be received to support the adaptation process to colostomy.

  1. Targeted Therapies and Immunotherapy Side Effects:

  • Immune System Reactions:

There may be symptoms such as fever, fatigue or skin reactions. Keep in touch with your doctor.

  • Weakness:

It is important to maintain your energy level and rest.

  1. Nutrition Problems:

Loss of appetite, weight loss, or digestive problems may occur during treatment. A healthy and nutritious diet is important.

  1. Psychological and Emotional Effects:

The treatment process can come with stress, anxiety, and emotional difficulties. It is important to get psychological support.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Colon (Intestinal)  Cancer?

  • Get Screened for Colon Cancer:

People at moderate risk of colorectal cancer may consider starting their screening at age fifty. However, people with an increased risk, such as individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer, should consider starting screening earlier.

Various scanning options are available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Talk to your doctor about your options and decide together which tests are right for you.

  • Make Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Your Risk:

You can take steps to reduce your risk of colon cancer by making changes in your daily life.

Take the following steps:

  • Eat a Variety of Fruits, Vegetables and Grains:

Fruits, vegetables and grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that may play a role in preventing cancer. Choose a different variety of vegetables and fruits so you get a range of vitamins and nutrients.

  • If You Do, Use Alcohol Moderately:

If you drink alcohol, limit the amount you drink to at least one drink per day for women and two for men.

  • Quit Smoking:

Consult your doctor for methods that will help you quit smoking.

  • Exercise Most Days of the Week:

Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days. If you have been sedentary for a while, start slowly and gradually increase to 30 minutes. Also talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight:

If you are at a healthy weight, try to maintain your body weight with a combination of a healthy diet and daily exercise.

If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy ways to reach your goal. Aim to lose weight gradually by increasing the amount of exercise and reducing the number of calories you eat.

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