Colon cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine (colon). The colon is the final part of the digestive tract. It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time some of these polyps can become colon cancers. Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:
- A persistent 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 doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Colonoscopy: it is a long, flexible and slender tube attached to a video camera and monitor to view your entire colon and rectum. If any suspicious areas are found, biopsies can be taken . This procedure can also remove polyps.
Which treatments are most likely to help you depends on your particular situation, including the location of your cancer, its stage and your other health concerns. Treatment for colon cancer usually involves surgery to remove the cancer. Other treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, might also be recommended.
Surgery for early-stage colon cancer
If your colon cancer is very small, you will benifit from a minimally invasive approach to surgery, such as:
- Removing polyps during a colonoscopy (polypectomy). If your cancer is small, localized, completely contained within a polyp and in a very early stage, your doctor may be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy.
- Endoscopic mucosal resection. Larger polyps might be removed during colonoscopy using special tools to remove the polyp and a small amount of the inner lining of the colon in a procedure called an endoscopic mucosal resection.
- Minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery). Polyps that can’t be removed during a colonoscopy may be removed using laparoscopic surgery. This procedure is performed through several small incisions in your abdominal wall, inserting instruments with attached cameras that display your colon on a video monitor.
If the cancer has grown into or through your colon,
- Partial colectomy. During this procedure, part of your colon that contains the cancer, along with a margin of normal tissue on either side of the cancer are removed. This procedure can commonly be done by a minimally invasive approach (laparoscopy).
- Surgery to create a way for waste to leave your body. When it’s not possible to reconnect the healthy portions of your colon or rectum, you may need an ostomy. This involves creating an opening in the wall of your abdomen from a portion of the remaining bowel for the elimination of stool into a bag that fits securely over the opening.Sometimes the ostomy is only temporary, allowing your colon or rectum time to heal after surgery. In some cases, however, the colostomy may be permanent.
- Lymph node removal. Nearby lymph nodes are usually also removed during colon cancer surgery and tested for cancer.
Surgery for advanced cancer
If your cancer is very advanced or your overall health very poor, your surgeon may recommend an operation to relieve a blockage of your colon or other conditions in order to improve your symptoms. This surgery isn’t done to cure cancer, but instead to relieve signs and symptoms, such as a blockage, bleeding or pain.
In specific cases where the cancer has spread only to the liver or lung but your overall health is otherwise good, your doctor may recommend surgery or other localized treatments to remove the cancer. Chemotherapy may be used before or after this type of procedure. This approach provides a chance to be free of cancer over the long term.