As the second leading cancer diagnosis and third leading cause of cancer death in American men and women, colon cancer is a serious form of cancer that affects thousands of lives each year. However, the good news is that the five-year colon cancer survival rate is 90 percent when detected and treated early.
As the trusted provider of colon cancer diagnostics and treatment across eight regions in Iowa and Illinois, UnityPoint Clinic has leading gastroenterologists that will assess your personal colon cancer risk, provide steps for prevention and detect the disease in its earliest, most treatable stages.
What is Colon Cancer?
Most colon cancers begin as small, benign tumors. These tumors are called adenomatous polyps, which form on the inner walls of the large intestine - some of which may grow into a cancerous tumor if they are not removed during routine colonoscopies. If the tumor is not treated early, the colon cancer cells spread to and damage other healthy cells within the body.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
While the exact causes of colon cancer are currently unknown, advanced research suggests those who are at higher risk for developing colon cancer are men and women who:
- Are older than 50 years old
- Are African-American of eastern European descent
- Have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Have certain inherited diseases (Familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome)
Just because you are higher risk for developing colon cancer than normal, it does not necessarily mean you will develop the disease. Speak with your primary care physician about your personal risk, as well as recommendations for prevention and screening.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
Unfortunately, many people with colon cancer do not experience symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Though colon cancer symptoms are numerous and nonspecific, consult your doctor right away if you are experiencing the following warning signs:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Lump in abdomen
- Red or dark spots of blood in stool
- Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
Colon Cancer Screening
Studies show that people who are diagnosed with colon cancer after routine colonoscopies tend to have better outcomes and less advanced cancers than people who are diagnosed based on symptoms. Most doctors recommend men and women begin screening for colon cancer starting at age 50. Those who are at high risk should speak with their doctor about screening at an earlier age.
Colon Cancer Treatment
Colon cancers that have not spread to new areas are typically treated with surgery and additional chemotherapy. However, prognosis and treatment are dependent on a number of factors, including the stage of colon cancer, whether or not it is reoccurring and the person's overall health. Remember, the success of treatment is almost always dependent on the stage of colon cancer, so getting screened regularly is key.
Want to learn more about your personal risk for colon cancer or our advanced colon cancer treatment options? Use our online Find a Doctor tool to locate a gastroenterologist or general surgeon in your area.