Colon cancer is a cancer of the Large intestine (colon) or rectum (end of the colon) and the incidence is equal between men and women. Colon and rectal cancers begin in the digestive system, also called the GI (gastrointestinal) system. . In most cases, colorectal cancers develop slowly over many years. We now know that most of these cancers start as a polyp — a growth of tissue that starts in the lining and grows into the center of the colon or rectum. This tissue may or may not be cancer. A type of polyp known as an adenoma can become cancer. Removing a polyp early may keep it from becoming cancer.
- Men or Women age 50 or older
- People that are tobacco users with obesity or sedentary
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease such as Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease.
Early cases of Colorectal cancer usually don’t have any symptoms, advanced stages of this cancer can have any of the following symptoms:
- Rectal Bleeding or blood in the stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lower abdominal pain or discomfort
- Change in bowel habits, or stool that appears narrower/thinner than usual
Treatment depends partly on the stage of the cancer. In general, treatments may include:
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
- Surgery (most often a colectomy) to remove cancer cells
- Radiation therapy to destroy cancerous tissue
Tests and Diagnosis:
With proper screening, colon cancer can be detected before symptoms develop, when it is most curable. Your physician will check your abdomen for any masses and perform a rectal exam to check for any masses.
A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) may detect small amounts of blood in the stool, which could suggest colon cancer. However, this test is often negative in patients with colon cancer. For this reason, a FOBT must be done along with colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. It is also important to note that a positive FOBT doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.
- Colonoscopy should be done every 10 yrs
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 yrs
- Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia
- Blood tests to detect tumor markers, including carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9, may help your physician follow you after treatment.
The death rate of colon cancer has dropped significantly in the past 15 yrs. It may be due to increased awareness and screening by colonoscopy. Colon cancer can be detected in its earliest and most curable stages by colonoscopy. Almost all men and women age 50 and older should have a colon cancer screening. Patients at risk may need screening earlier. Early detection is the key to treatment of this type of cancer.
There are modifications that can be made to prevent or to lower your risk of colorectal cancer:
- Be physically active and exercise regularly
- Eating a high fiber diet, including fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and beans.
- Limiting red meat consumption, avoiding overprocessed meats
- Several studies have reported that NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib) may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women, but the link seems to be stronger in men.
Vitamin and Herbal modalities
- Multivitamin – Some studies suggest that taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid or folate can lower colorectal cancer risk.
- Calcium with vitamin D – Other studies suggest that getting more calcium and vitamin D are helpful in colorectal cancer prevention.
- Magnesium – One recent study suggested that a diet high in magnesium may also reduce colorectal cancer risk in women
- Selenium – High Selenium Blood Levels Decrease the Potential of Colon Cancer. In a study out this week published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers from the University of Arizona pooled the data from three completed clinical trials to determine the effects of nutritional intervention on cancer recurrence in patients who had undergone colon cancer surgery.
- Coenzyme Q 10 – Improves cellular oxygenation. Facilitates the repair of DNA & RNA, supports immune system’s detoxification.
- Garlic (Kyolic from Wakunaga) – Enhances immune function
- MSM – A powerful cancer prevention agent
- Shark Cartilage – Has been shown to inhibit and reverse the growth of some types of tumors
- Flaxseed oil & Omega fish oils – Has antioxidant properties, reduces inflammation and has been shown to prevent the spread of cancer.
Please check out our Monthly Specials, which includes an array of vitamins and herbs mentioned.
Educating yourself against any disease is crucial to an early diagnosis and receiving timely treatment leading to fewer complications and a better prognosis. The following resources will help you stay informed of the latest developments in colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment.