The Human Colon The human colon is a muscular, tube-shaped organ measuring about 4 feet long. It extends from the end of your small bowel to your anus, twisting and turning through your abdomen (belly).
Functions of the ColonThe colon has 3 main functions. To digest and absorb nutrients from food To concentrate fecal material by absorbing fluid (and electrolytes) from it To store and control evacuation of fecal material
What is colon cancer? Cancer of the colon or rectum is called colon or colorectal cancer. It develops in the digestive tract from polyps that initially are benign, but that over time mutate into a cancerous tumor. The cancer cells invade and destroy nearby tissue, and can break away to form new tumors in other parts of the body, a process called metastasis.
Symptoms A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain A feeling that your bowel doesnt empty completely Weakness or fatigue
Treatments/Potential Cures The primary treatment of colon cancer is to surgically remove part or all of your colon. Suggestive polyps, if few in number, may be removed during colonoscopy. Chemotherapy after surgery can prolong survival for people whose cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Radiation treatment after surgery does not help people with colon cancer, but it does prolong survival for people with rectal cancer. Given before surgery, radiation may reduce tumor size. This can improve the chances that the tumor will be removed successfully. Radiation before surgery also appears to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after treatment.
You have a high risk of colon cancerif: You have a higher risk for colon cancer if you: Are older than 60 Are African American of eastern European descent Eat a diet high in red or processed meats Have cancer elsewhere in the body Have colorectal polyps Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis) Have a family history of colon cancer Have a personal history of breast cancer
Genetic syndromes that increase therisk of colon cancerTwo of the most common are: Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
Preventative Measures All men and women over fifty should get a colon cancer screening because colon cancer can almost always be caught by colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. Changing your diet and lifestyle is important. Some evidence suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce your risk of colon cancer.