Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is a form of gastrointestinal cancer. It is the most common type of cancer after skin cancer in both men and women. Colon cancer develops over a long period of time — usually 10 to 15 years — making colon cancer screenings very effective for prevention and detection. The average American has about a five percent risk of getting colon cancer.
Colon cancer begins as noncancerous polyps along the lining of the colon or rectum. Your doctor can check for these polyps during a routine colonoscopy. To learn more about early detection for colon cancer in Arizona, Find a Doctor today at Dignity Health.
Understanding Colon Cancer Risk Factors
As with all cancers, the cause is still unknown. However, there are specific risk factors for colon cancer that may increase your chances of developing it.
- African American race
- Genetics — five to 10 percent of colon cancers are related to gene mutations and syndromes
- Type 2 diabetes
- Age — 90 percent of colon cancers are found in people age 50 or older
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Personal or family history of colorectal polyps or cancer
In addition, these lifestyle factors can also increase your risk of colon cancer:
- Not exercising
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
- Poor diet
To learn more about your potential risk factors, or to discuss lifestyle changes with a doctor, visit a Dignity Health location near you.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
Because symptoms of colon cancer may not be noticeable until late in the disease, regular screenings are essential. When symptoms do appear, they can include:
- Changes in bowel habits, including constipation, diarrhea, narrowing of the stool, changes in consistency, or bloody stool
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Tiredness or weakness
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
- Feeling of not emptying completely after a bowel movement
Since colon cancer symptoms are very similar to those of other conditions, such as hemorrhoids, it is important to meet with your doctor for the right diagnosis. With regular screenings, you can significantly lower your risk.
Determining Colon Cancer Treatment at Dignity Health
Through screenings, doctors at Dignity Health can find many colon cancers early, before symptoms begin. At these times, the disease is often highly treatable. If colonoscopy shows signs of polyps, your doctor may perform a procedure to remove the noncancerous growths. Treatment for early stage colon cancer usually involves surgery to remove the tumor.
For more advanced stages of colon cancer, doctors may also recommend chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy to kill cancer cells and stop the spread of the disease. Fortunately, today’s treatments for colon cancer work better than ever, offering patients more positive outcomes. Dignity Health helps prevent colorectal cancer through screening programs and state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging, and offers advanced treatments for colon cancer in Arizona.