Did you know that in 2005 in the U.S.A., 26,781 men and 27,259 women died from colorectal (colon) cancer ?  Those are terrifying figures, yet they are true.  For men, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer after prostate and lung cancers. For women, this cancer is the third most common after breast and lung cancers.

Possibly we can reduce these statistics.  If everybody aged 50 or older had regular screening tests, as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps, abnormal growths in the colon or rectum, so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.

If you are aged 50 or older, or think you may be at higher than average risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about getting screened.

What is the Colon ?

The colon is the end portion of our digestive system.  It is where foods that are not digested by the small intestine are stored for several hours up to a few days.  Also, most of the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and water take place in the colon.  The bulks of food that are no longer in use and toxins that are present from the food, are then eliminated from the body in the form of the feces.
 
What is Colon Cancer ?

Colon cancer can simply be defined as the cancer of the colon or the large intestine. Most cases of this illness start as a small and benign clumps of cells in the intestine, which is known as adenomatous polyps.  As time goes by, these polyps multiply rapidly and develop into cancers.

Polyps are hard to detect in an early stage because they produce only a few symptoms. Sometimes, no symptoms are manifested not unless the condition is in its later stages. Once the signs of a cancer appear the individual experiences a change in bowel habits, persistent abdominal pain and cramping, accumulation of gas and presence of blood in the stool.

Why do People Develop Colon Cancer ?

When the healthy cells in the colon are altered, they become at risk for the development of cancer. To keep the body functioning normally, the cells need to grow and divide in an orderly manner.  There are really times when cells grow out of control, even if new cells are not needed by the system.

The most common cause of the development of this disease occurs when one has a history of the illness and polyps in the family. Other known causes are inflammatory bowel disease, high alcohol intake, diabetes, diet that is high in fats and cholesterol, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking, and a diet that is deficient in vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
 
What are the Available Colorectal Cancer Treatments ?

The three standard treatment options are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

1. Chemotherapy – most oncologists recommend chemotherapy for colon cancers that are already in stage 2.  For stage 3 and stage 4 colon cancers, chemotherapy is still recommended but should be used in combination with biologic therapy in order to target specific cancer cells. The chemicals being used aids the body to get rid of the cancerous cells and prevent them from rapidly dividing. 

2. Radiation Therapy -individuals who are scheduled for surgery are advised to undergo radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.  After the surgery, another session of a radiation therapy is needed to prevent the tumor from ever coming back.  In some cases, there are tumors that can hardly be removed with surgery, so radiation therapy is used to destroy the cancer cells.
 
The most common type of radiation therapy that is used for the treatment of colon cancer is the external radiation. These kinds of therapies are quick but should be done frequently to insure that the cancerous cells are destroyed. 

3. Surgery – the most common surgery for colon cancer is the colostomy. Colostomy is a surgical procedure wherein the surgeon will create an opening in the abdominal wall, which becomes an alternative exit of wastes products from the colon.
 
“While colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States, it is the most preventable major cancer. Improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment have greatly reduced the death toll from this disease,” said Dr. J. Randolph Hecht, clinical professor of medicine and director, GI Oncology Program, Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center.

Be sure to take care of your health. There is only one of you !

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