Surviving Colon Cancer Through Detection and Prevention

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that affects the lower part of the digestive system, which is from the rectum up to the colon and the large intestine. Abnormal and rapid cell growth in these areas results in the presence of tumors.

Colon cancer is considered to be one of the leading causes of death among cancer patients. According to surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, around 135,000 Americans were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 52,000 of them died in 2009.

Due to the number of Americans diagnosed with colon cancer, March has been declared as National Colorectal Awareness Month. Various hospitals around the country, such as the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, have programs to increase colon cancer awareness.

The Henry Mayo Hospital wants to educate people that colon cancer can be prevented and is curable when detected early. Colon cancer can be prevented by having a healthy and active lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle means eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly and having regular medical checkups. Colon cancer may be treated if detected early through regular checkups.

According to Donna Ferguson, the director of the gastrointestinal lab at Henry Mayo, people who are 50 and older and who are overweight are highly at risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer risk factors include obesity, old age and unhealthy lifestyle.

Ferguson said that the best way to prevent colon cancer is to have a healthy lifestyle. A person should avoid a fatty diet, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. It is recommended that patients follow a low-fat diet,  eat only lean meat, exercise regularly and consume more fiber.

However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle does not mean you cannot be diagnosed with colon cancer. Elderly people should have regular annual checkups to see if there are tumors and any abnormalities in their body. Early detection is the best way to survive colon cancer.

A person with colon cancer may suffer from weight loss, rectal bleeding, changes in bowel movements and anemia. Once a person has these symptoms, he should directly consult his physician. However, there are incidents wherein no symptoms of colon cancer are observed and that is why it is important for the elderly to see their doctors regularly.

Colon cancer may be diagnosed through biopsy and colonoscopy. Colonoscopy uses either a fiber optic or CCD camera to see any abnormalities and detect the presence of polyps in the colon. Biopsy examines whether a tumor is benign or malignant.

Cancer staging is determined by TNM system and CT scan. Again, the earlier cancer is detected the more chances a patient has of surviving.

People with colon cancer usually undergo surgery for treatment. The main goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tumors. If cancer cells have metastasized to other organs, a person must undergo chemotherapy and radiation.

Ferguso said that patients diagnosed early have better prognosis than those patients diagnosed during the third or fourth stage of the cancer. When patients are diagnosed early, cancer cells have not yet spread to other organs and these cells can be surgically removed.