Colon cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer in the United States. The lifetime risk of developing colon cancer in the general population is approximately 5% however people with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or a personal history of colon polyps are at increased risk of developing colon cancer. People with a personal history of having other cancers or who have chronic medical conditions including Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's disease are at increased risk compared to the general population. Smoking also increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
It is not clear why some people develop colon cancer and some people do not. There is some evidence that healthy diets high in fiber and low in fat may prevent colon cancer.
Colon cancer occurs when the lining of the colon develops abnormal growth and develops the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. In most cases, polyps are the first sign of abnormal growth.
Colon cancer is a preventable disease. Detection and removal of colon polyps at the time of colonoscopy can remove potential cancer before it ever starts, emphasizing the importance of undergoing routine colon screening.
In most cases, colon cancer does not cause symptoms. Timely colonoscopy helps to identify cancers in early stages. When identified and treated early, up to 90% of patients can be cured of cancer.
When cancer has progressed enough to cause symptoms like GI bleeding, pain, or a change in bowel habits it is usually advanced with a lower chance of cure.
When colon cancer is identified, it is important to know the certain characteristic of cancer and if cancer has invaded the wall of the colon or has spread to other organs. Your doctor will determine the best test to evaluate this. Typically a colonoscopy with biopsy, CT scans, and blood tests may be needed.
In most cases, surgery is required to achieve a complete cure. Colon cancer surgery involves removing the portion of colon containing cancer along with the draining lymph nodes nearby. The ends of the colon are then connected. In some cases, the intestine is not connected and the creation of a colostomy is needed. A colostomy is an opening of the intestine into a bag on the skin.
A number of different techniques can be used to perform this operation. Some surgeons can use minimally invasive techniques that result in less pain and shorter recovery time. North Texas Colon and Rectal associates specialized in minimally invasive techniques including laparoscopy and robotic surgery.
Depending on the stage of colon cancer additional treatments with chemotherapy may be needed. Your surgeon will work with oncologists that specialized in colon cancer treatment options to tailor a treatment plan that works best for you. It is of utmost importance that you continue a regularly scheduled follow-up with your surgeon and oncologist to detect recurrence.
It is possible that your bowel function may change after colon cancer surgery. The colon works normally to absorb water from the liquid stool that empties into it from the small intestine. When a portion of the colon is removed, stool may be more liquid than before. In most cases, the remaining colon adapts to absorb additional water over time and your bowel function will reach a state that is close to your bowel function before surgery.