Colon cancer occurs in the large intestine or the large bowel and is a very common kind of cancer, second only to lung cancer in occurrence. The risk of colon cancer is higher in certain groups and ethnicities, as well as in people living in Western industrialized countries. The positive side is that colon cancer also has a very high rate of cure and survival.
Colon cancer is also known as colo-rectal cancer. The large intestine has two sections: the upper portion is the colon and the lower portion is the anus or the rectum. Cancer in the large intestine can spread over both regions, which gives it the name colo-rectal cancer. The colon absorbs water and nutrients during food digestion. The rectum, on the other hand, serves to expel waste material from the body. There are four parts to the colon, and cancer can start developing in any of these parts.
The cancerous growth in the colon usually starts as a polyp. A polyp is a small tissue growth. This polyp will grow into the colon and if left untreated it can develop into cancer over a period of time. A specific type of polyp, called adenomacan, is the primary seed of colon cancer. On an average, it takes 5-10 years for a polyp to reach a diameter of about .5 inch. This takes a further 5-10 years to develop into cancer.
Though 20 years seems enough to detect and treat cancerous development, it is difficult to discern any growth for several years. Thankfully, there are many diagnostic techniques available to successfully detect any cancerous growth or polyps. Some common techniques used in diagnosing and treating colon cancer are barium enemas, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and biopsy. Apart from this, patients can be screened to discern any blood in the stool or unexplained iron deficiency to find out if there is any polyp or cancer developing.
Colon cancer is a widespread disease, and a lot of research is underway to increase survival rates and aid early diagnosis. There are also many foundations that aid colon cancer patients and provide information to people.