Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is now the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American adults. The five-year relative survival rate is 90 percent for those who have found and treated the cancer at an early stage. But for those cases in which the cancer has spread, the rate goes down to 65 percent or lower.
Colon cancer develops in the region of the gastrointestinal tract called the large intestine or large bowel. The colon represents the main portion of the large intestine, and is responsible for absorbing water and electrolytes from the undigested food matter passed on from the small intestine. It also serves as a storage area for waste material. Colon cancer is believed to be initiated by damage to the epithelial cells lining the colon, the result of either chemical injury or chronic inflammation. Polyps, or small growths, may develop at the site of that damage. One type of polyp, called adenomas, may develop into cancer over time. Other polyps are benign.
Recommended Lifestyle Changes
Early detection is key to winning the cancer battle. Once you reach the age of 50, the following tests should be done routinely:
1. A fecal occult blood test (to test for blood in the feces) annually if normal
2. A flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years if normal, or
3. A colonoscopy (if normal, every 10 years), or
4. A barium enema every 5 to 10 years if normal and
5. A digital rectal exam at the same time the sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or barium enema is performed (up to 10 percent of tumors can be detected by this low-tech test).