Colon or colorectal cancer is the cancer of the large intestine, the last portion of vertebrates digestive system. It begins with the uninhibited expansion of epithelial cells that line the inner surface of the colon. The colon in most mammals is the final portion of the gastrointestinal tract. Its chief task is to get hold of water and other materials from solid waste products before these are eliminated from the body.
It has been established that majority of colon cancer cases begun with polyps which are hyperplastic masses. But these small balloon structures may undergo a succession of alterations into pre-tumorigenic (e.g. Tubular adenoma) and finally tumorous metastatic (e.g. Colorectal adenocarcinoma) growth.
For many years, colorectal cancer still remains as one of most regularly diagnosed cancers throughout the world with hundred of thousands of newly diagnosed cases each year. The elevated cancer incidence is often accompanied by high mortality rates. Colon cancer is among the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
There are a variety of risk factors linked to the dvelopment of colorectal cancer. Age being one of them. Cancer risk rises proportionally with age. And males constitute a higher risk group than females. A further group at great risk of getting colon cancer are people with personal or family history of Hereditary genetic mutations (HNPCC: Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer or FAP: Familial adenomatous polyposis). People with inflammatory bowel disease have greater risks of developing colon cancer as well.
Further major risk factors included obesity, extreme consumption of red meat, elevated fat diet, diet low in calcium, vitamin D, selenium and folate, inadequate uptake of vegetables and fruits, inadequate exercise, smoking, and aging of the immune system. Conversely, studies have found that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, estrogen-containing medications and cholesterol reducing drugs may protect against colon cancer. These drugs are however not endorsed at this point in time as alternative prevention.
While several symptoms may indicate the presence of this cancer, many of these symptoms are not unique to colon malignancy and are in fact, quite analogous to other ordinary illnesses and diseases. These symptoms may possibly appear suddenly or may grow little by little over a period of time. Symptoms include bowel movement alterations; continuous diarrhea; constipation; total bowel blockage (with extreme pain); bloody stools; sudden or chronic abdominal cramping and pain, just to name a few.
Surgical intervention is still the most effectual treatment if the tumor have not become invasive and metastasize. This is done by eliminating the tumor along with a portion of normal colonic tissues and adjacent lymph nodes.
Other types of treatments also include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. Individual or combinatorial therapies may take place depending on patient’s physical condition and stage of disease.