Understanding The Early Signs Of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is a rapidly growing disease in India and ranks as the third largest cause of death in its category, globally. Diets rich in processed food and red meats coupled with obesity and lack of exercise have long been postulated to be possible risk factors for colon cancer. Here’s what you need to know about the causes and signs for the diagnosis of colon cancer.
What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is a cancer of cancer of the large intestine (colon) - the final part of your digestive tract. This type of cancer is historically more common in people above the age of 50. While it is usually caused due to hereditary/ genetic factors or inflammatory bowel diseases, recent studies suggest that unhealthy diets and stress can also be major contributors to its development.
Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time, some of these polyps can become colon cancers.
Polyps may be small and produce few if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.
Colon cancer begins its gestation in the form of harmless polyps that are formed on the lining of your colon. A colon polyp to re-iterate is a term for a small (and often harmless) clump of cells that are formed in the lining of the colon.
Cancer screening is a vital exercise, especially if you are above 50 or are genetically predisposed to cancer. It can be easily prevented by regularly screening and excising polyps before they get an opportunity to mutate into cancerous cells.
Colon cancer can be screened using common procedures like colonoscopies and endoscopies, as well as lab tests like stool tests and imaging scans like CT, PET or MRI’s to track the size of the polyps/tumors and prescribe changes to the treatment.
Early signs of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer can show very fleeting signs in its early stages and will only escalate when the polyps achieve a large critical mass at which point they become cancerous. You can, however, consider screening yourself for colon cancer if you find recurring symptoms like:
- A feeling of fatigue
- Abdominal lumps
- Abdominal pains due to cramps or gas accumulation
- Changes in the consistency and frequency of your bowel movements
- Unexplainable diarrhea or constipation that lasts for more than 4 weeks
- Bloody stools that leave your feces tinged dark
- Side effects like iron deficiency (Anemia) and unintended weight loss
- A nagging feeling that your bowels have not been fully evacuated
- A growing feeling that your stomach is full (even when it's not)
It is important to consult your doctor if these symptoms persist for more than four weeks, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to cancer and the above symptoms continue to escalate.
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