Colon cancer strikes an estimated 100,000 Americans each year. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer. This form of cancer generally strikes people over the age of 50. Irregular cell growth in the digestive systems can start out as benign but become serious over a period of years.
What is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is a disruption in the pattern of reproduction of cells in the digestive tract. Most colon cancers develop in the sigmoid colon, just above the rectum. It generally forms from polyps that form in the intestines. The polyps generally start out as benign growths, but can mutate into cancerous cells over time.
The early stages of colon cancer can produce no symptoms at all. Many times, colon cancer does not give any warning signs in the early stages; therefore, colon cancer testing can be invaluable in helping to find problems when they are in their earliest stages.
As the cancer cells begin to grow, you may experience changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation or both intermittently. The consistency of the stool may be different than previously. The person may experience a feeling of bloating or feeling of not being able to eliminate completely. He may feel pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen. The person may find blood in the stools, which gives the stool a tarry appearance. He may lose weight for no known reason.
When To See Your Doctor
You should see your physician if you notice any change in bowel habits that persists for more than a few days. Colon cancer screening is recommended for all those over that age of 50. Your physician can advise you on how frequently you need screening depending on your family history and other risk factors.
Diagnosing Colon Cancer
Home testing for colon cancer can be done through the use of a fecal occult blood home test kit. Fecal occult blood tests detect blood in the feces by means of a chemical reaction. However, this test cannot tell where the blood is coming from, so further tests must be done. If your physician suspects color cancer, he will do a sigmoidoscopy to check the lower part of the colon or a colonoscopy to check the entire length of the colon. A biopsy of the growth found in the colon will help to confirm the diagnosis of cancer.