Cancer of the colon refers to cancer that develops and impacts any of the four sections of the colon, or large intestine. This disease is unlike many other types of cancer because it typically progresses slowly. Cancerous cells may be present in the colon for years before they begin to produce recognizable symptoms. It can be extremely dangerous because the first warning signs and symptoms are often mistaken for other bowel or health issues. Early detection and treatment are key to a positive outcome.
In the early stages of colon cancer, abnormal tissue growth occurs somewhere along the lining of the colon. This growth can produce both cancerous or benign polyps, but these are often too small to be detected. As the disease progresses, tumors become larger and begin to cause noticeable symptoms to the individual.
Early indications of colon cancer can be difficult to pinpoint. Individuals may begin to experience a noticeable change in elimination habits that lasts for more than just a few days. Excessive diarrhea, long bouts of constipation, or abnormally shaped stool over multiple days can be a cause for concern. Another key indicator is the frequent sensation that a bowel movement is necessary, but either the patient isn’t able to produce a bowel movement, or they do not experience relief afterwards.
One of the confusing aspects in detecting colon cancer is that the stool can often continue to appear normal even in the later stages of the disease. In some cases, however, there will be blood or excessive mucus present and the matter will appear extremely dark. Severe stomach cramps, nausea, and rapid weight loss may also be explained by colon cancer.
Advancements in medical testing procedures means that it is now possible to detect small changes in the colon and rectal tissue, which could indicate precancerous activity. For those with some symptoms, or milder signs, these tests could be invaluable in early detection and successful treatment. All adults should receive regular screenings for colon cancer, since the disease can be asymptomatic until it is quite advanced. These screenings are simple, and are usually outpatient procedures covered by most insurance plans. Discussion of your symptoms with a qualified medical professional can provide you with peace of mind and be the first step towards treatment.