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Do You Have Colon Cancer?

Aug 17, 2007
Colon cancer usually strikes after you have crossed 50. In the US, it is the second most frequent cause of death. Ending at the rectum, the colon, or large intestine, is the last part of the gastrointestinal tract.

People with a family history of colon cancer or a personal history of colon polyps or inflammatory bowel disease are more prone to this disease. Factors that may increase your chances of acquiring this type of cancer include cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol drinking. Mutated versions of certain genes have been seen to lead to colon cancer. The genes MSH2, MLH1, PMS1, and PMS2 in their normal form correct tiny errors that occur when cells divide and grow but mutated versions of these genes have been connected with colon cancer.

The main characteristic of these mutated versions of genes is that they cannot make the necessary repairs like the normal genes do and this leads to a build up of many such errors and causes a disturbance in the cell's ability to resist the division that is now uncontrolled. It is this uncontrolled growth that characterizes cancer. Research has indicated that eating certain foods can also cause colon cancer. Red meat and animal fat are said to enhance the risk factor of getting this type of cancer and physicians always recommend low-fat, high-fiber diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. Studies have indicated that some drugs may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

For example, the use of ibuprofen, a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and post menopause estrogen replacement therapy have indicated in tests that the risk of colon cancer may be reduced. This type of cancer is slow in developing and generally does not show up in any obvious symptoms especially in the early stages. The detection of blood in bowel movements, persistent constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain or unexplained weight loss are some of the signs of undiagnosed colorectal cancer. There are two tests that are known to be able to detect most colon tumors in the early stages. The digital rectal examination is where the doctor checks the smoothness of the rectal lining using a gloved finger. This is the first test.

The second test is the test where a small sample of the patient's feces is smeared on a card coated with a chemical called guaiac, which reacts with blood and it is called the fecal occult blood test. Here they check for occult blood or hidden blood by analyzing it in a laboratory. Rest assured that a positive test does not necessarily indicate the presence of the cancer. Removal of the tumor is the primary treatment of colon cancer and this may be in combination with radiation and/or chemotherapy.

This combination of high-dose radiation and chemotherapy before surgery has ensured that permanent colostomies are avoidable in many patients who earlier may have required this procedure. Elimination of the body waste through an artificial opening in the abdominal wall requires a surgical procedure which is called colostomy. The spread of cancer from the colorectal area to the lymph nodes or liver might be treated with three drugs, fluorouracil, leucovorin and irinotecan which are used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy in order to give the patients a new lease of life.
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