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Colon cancer – gain the upper hand by being well informed

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease/Youtube

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – When you or someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to know what to expect. In the early days after diagnosis, your main focus might be learning about the cancer and working with your healthcare team to come up with a treatment plan. But medical issues are only one part of living with cancer.

Everyone’s cancer experience is different. Some people get through treatment and find that their life hasn’t changed as much as they had expected. For others, their life changes completely.

Some people find living with cancer to be the biggest challenge of their life. It changes everything from relationships to work, finances to daily routines. Cancer treatments can affect the way you look and feel and the way that your body works. Cancer also affects your emotions and your plans for the future.

People living with cancer need to find ways of coping with the practical issues and other changes that cancer can bring. And everyone does this in their own way. The oncology team at The Nairobi Hospital Cancer Centre believes that every patient’s life is precious and the physicians have a responsibility to provide the best personalized and targeted customized care for our patients.

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine; the colon. The colon is the final part of the digestive tract. Colon cancer typically affects older adults, though it can happen at any age. It usually begins as small, noncancerous also referred to as benign clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time some of these polyps can become colon cancers.

Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying and removing polyps before they turn into cancer. If colon cancer develops, many treatments are available to help control it, including surgery, radiation therapy and drug treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immuno-therapy.

Symptoms

  • A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they’ll likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine.

Causes
Doctors aren’t certain what causes most colon cancers. In general, colon cancer begins when healthy cells in the colon develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains a set of instructions that tell a cell what to do.

Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But when a cell’s DNA is damaged and becomes cancerous, cells continue to divide – even when new cells aren’t needed. As the cells accumulate, they form a tumor. With time, the cancer cells can grow to invade and destroy normal tissue nearby. And cancerous cells can travel to other parts of the body to form deposits there which is referred to as metastasis – the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary site of cancer

Risk factors
Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:

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  • Older age – Colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but a majority of people with colon cancer are older than 50. The rates of colon cancer in people younger than 50 have been increasing, but doctors aren’t sure why.
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps – If you’ve already had colon cancer or noncancerous colon polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions – Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
  • Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk – Some gene mutations passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon cancer significantly. Only a small percentage of colon cancers are linked to inherited genes. The most common inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome, which is also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
  • Family history of colon cancer – You’re more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a blood relative who has had the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet – Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a typical Western diet, which is low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meat.
  • People who are inactive are more likely to develop colon cancer – Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  • Diabetes – People with diabetes or insulin resistance have an increased risk of colon cancer.
  • Obesity – People who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
  • Smoking – People who smoke may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
  • Alcohol – Heavy use of alcohol increases your risk of colon cancer.

But people with an increased risk, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, should consider screening sooner. Several screening options exist each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Talk about your options with your doctor, and together you can decide which tests are appropriate for you.

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