Colon cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the colon, also known as the large intestine. Doctors diagnose about 97,220 cases of colon cancer each year.
Colorectal cancer of the colon is common – excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States.
Many people with colon cancer do not realize it at first – many of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer may be the result of other conditions, such as hemorrhoids, infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. Signs of colon cancer are especially hard to recognize in the early stages of the disease. Early detection of colon cancer is important, though, in that early treatment improves outcomes.
Signs of Colon Cancer
The signs of colon cancer include:
- A change in your bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, or narrow stools, which persists for more than a few days.
- Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement, but moving your bowels does not relieve the sensation.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Dark stools or obvious blood in your stool.
- Belly pain or cramping.
- Weakness, fatigue.
- Unintended weight loss.
Most people who experience these signs and symptoms do not have colon cancer. It is important that people who do experience these signs and symptoms undergo colon cancer testing, as symptoms often appear only after cancer has progressed to a later stage of the disease.
Colon Cancer and Screening
Doctors often describe colon cancer and rectal cancer as one condition – colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer found through routine screening is usually easier to treat than cancer found in people with symptoms. Screening can even prevent some colorectal cancers by giving doctors an opportunity to find and remove precancerous growths, known as polyps, during the screening procedure.
The American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal screenings for men and women starting at age 50. People with a family history of colon cancer should talk with their doctors about undergoing testing at a younger age.
When diagnosed before it has spread, the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is 90 percent. That means nine out of ten people live for more than five years after treatment. Survival rates are lower once the cancer has spread outside of the colon.
For more information about colon cancer and screening, talk with your doctor or schedule an appointment with us today.