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On the watch against colon cancer


Colon cancer prevention

When constipation seems to be very hard to overlook, and has become quite marked over the past months or years, then it may be suggestive of the most dreaded complication of all disorders pertaining to bowel function. Colon cancer, or colorectal cancer as it is called by health professionals, is the United Kingdoms' second leading cause of mortality due to malignancy.

Colon cancer is a deceptive disease condition. Malignancies that are adenocarcinomas are known for the prolonged length of time required before becoming symptomatic, with symptoms varying according the location of the tumor. Weight loss is not a common sight (unlike most cancers), and physical examination findings are usually normal at first, so the harder it is to predict it while early. Excessive and prolonged blood loss especially from right-sided colonic cancers could promote weakness and fatigue secondary to iron deficiency anemia. Left-sided colonic cancers present symptoms consistent with obstruction, such as colicky pain and abnormal bowel habits. Constipation is also reported, and it typically alternates with periods of having loose stools.

There are a lot of risk factors that are associated with the development of colorectal cancer. But then, approximately 75% of patients do not have recognized predisposing factors. Among the risk factors identified are the following:

  • Increased age. The incidence of colorectal cancer escalates after the age of 45 years old, and most patients (approximately 90%) are over 50 years of age.
  • Genetics and family history. Just like the rest of the malignancies, a family history of colon cancer or adenomatous polyps pose a great risk on family members. In fact, 20% of patients have identified relatives and family members that have the disease.
  • History of inflammatory bowel disease. Colorectal cancer is one significant complication of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. The risks begin to take place approximately 7-10 years after onset of either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, and the condition is also identified to be cumulative.
  • Unhealthy diet. According to studies, a fatty diet, along with red meats, are highly associated with an increasingly great risk of colorectal adenoma formation as well as cancer, while a diet rich in fruits and vegetables are otherwise. Other studies also indicate that the antioxidant vitamins such as A, C, and E, along with beta carotene, are not shown to be beneficial.
  • Race. There are certain epidemiologic studies that colorectal cancer is higher in dominance among blacks than whites, but the reasons (whether due to genetics or lifestyle) are still vague.

Because of its increasing prevalence, there are currently screening programs conducted on people who have a family history of colorectal cancer. The stage of the cancer upon time of presentation predicts the prognosis of the patient. Patients that are consistent with findings of colorectal cancer are referred to the Duke's criteria for staging, which will influence the treatment options of the patient. It is very essential therefore to subject one's self to screening, upon careful evaluation of the above risk factors, especially regarding family history.

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