Health

An Overview of Colon Cancer

Your body is made up of trillions of cells that normally grow, divide, and then die when they have reached the end of their lives. In the case of cancer, this process is disrupted. Cells continue to survive past the end of their normal cycle, to grow inappropriately, and to create new cells even though these are not needed. If this uncontrolled cell growth begins in the colon, then the cancer is classified as colon cancer. In the United States, cancer is exceeded only by heart disease as a leading cause of death.

What Treatments Are Available?

Treatment options may differ depending on a patient’s particular situation, such as having additional health concerns, and how advanced the cancer is at the time of diagnosis. Polyps, which are small lumps of tissue, can be removed with minimally invasive surgery. This type of procedure would be appropriate for cancer that is still in an early stage of growth and has not spread to other areas of the body.

If the cancer is more advanced, a section of the colon may need to be removed, with the noncancerous portions then being reconnected. Sometimes, however, this reconnection is not possible, and an ostomy is required. This involves surgically creating an opening in the patient’s abdominal wall. A bag from an ostomy supplier is then fitted securely over the opening to collect the body’s waste.

What Are Some Risk Factors?

Although the exact cause of colon cancer is not known, certain risk factors have been identified. People who have a family history of colon cancer, or have had this cancer previously, have an increased risk of developing it in the future. Those who are older, or who are African American, also have a greater risk.

Smoking or heavily using alcohol may make people more likely to develop colon cancer. In addition, an increased risk exists for people who are obese, diabetic or have a sedentary lifestyle.

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