What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer, which is a disease developing in the area that is popularly known as “large intestine” and located in the latest part of digestive system, is observed in 1 of every 20 people during lifetime.
Colon and rectum are part of digestive system. Large intestine is organ that comes after small intestine and has 1,5 m average length. It starts with caecum from lower part of stomach in the form of inverted U, and it climbs up and passes through the stomach horizontally by turning under the liver. It comes under the spleen, which is located on the left upper corner, and again makes a turn, then merges with the rectum by turning down from the left side. Rectum has 15 cm length averagely and is the last part of digestive system that is formed as a result of the expansion of large intestine.
Colon cancer begins in the cells located in the colon. As the number of cells increases, it spreads circularly around the colon like a napkin ring. If diagnosed early, cancer cells can be detected only limited to the inside of colon. If it is not diagnosed early, cancer can spread to nearby organs, lymph nodes, and liver, lungs, and other organs through bloodstream.
The most important criterion that brings success in the treatment of colon cancer is early detection. When colon or colon cancer is detected at an early stage, it is possible to completely eliminate disease.
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
'Why are colon (Colon cancer) symptoms?' the question can be answered as follows. The most common symptoms of colon cancer are constant diarrhea and constipation and thinning of stool that always occurs with normal thickness, blood coming from anus and stool, egg white-like secretion in stool. In cases that colon (large intestine) cancer has progressed and blocked the intestine, swelling and pain occur in the abdomen. It is important for those who have such complaints to appeal to the physician for early diagnosis.
- Feeling that the intestines cannot drain off enough,
- Difficulty in defecating
- Painful defecation
- Unexplained weight loss
These signs are among the most important signs of colon cancer, in other words, large intestinal cancer. Colon cancer that holds the right side of the intestine and colon cancer that holds the left side can give different symptoms. While complaints such as thinning of stool, bleeding, and changing the stool pattern are observed in cancer of left side because left side of the intestine is narrower area, cancer on the right side develops sneakingly and takes longer to give symptoms because intestine is wider on the right side. The patient has symptoms such as weakness, anemia, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Painful defecation, iron deficiency anemia, a feeling of abdominal mass are important symptoms of colon cancer. Being diagnosed with colon cancer before the disease progresses greatly increases chance of life. For this reason, it is very important to follow the symptoms of colon cancer for early diagnosis.
How is colon cancer diagnosed?
Colon cancer is a type of cancer that is included in screening programs. The most effective way to protect yourself against cancer or to detect the disease at an early stage is regular endoscopic examinations. Colonoscopy is the most common of these. Colonoscopy is a procedure that can both detect present tumor at early stage and protect the person from development of cancer by detecting polyp and similar problems before formation of cancer. Every person above 50 years old are recommended to undergo colonoscopic examination at 2-5 years intervals according to his/her risk status, personal health history, and family history. Preparation and execution of colonoscopy has become much easier and more comfortable for the patient today. New colonoscopes are carried out extremely easily and desired results are obtained without causing discomfort to the patient.
Colon cancer is diagnosed by some tests led by specialist physicians. After the patient's appeal to the physician and physical examination, the following tests are performed, respectively;
Examination of faecal occult blood: It is an extremely simple test; a small amount of stool samples is examined in the laboratory.
Radiological examinations: Double-contrast colon radiography and computed tomography are performed.
Laboratory tests: Total blood count and biochemical examinations are performed. Among them, the CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) test is one of the tests that can increase in the blood and help diagnose colon cancer.
Endoscopic examinations for final diagnosis: Rectoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy and biopsy are performed. A piece of the lesion is taken and examined by a pathologist.
If a person has a case of colon cancer in his/her family before the age of 50, he/she should undergo colonoscopy from the age of 40. Execution of colonoscopy once every 5 years is very important. In addition, checking of faecal occult blood once a year is also very important for the determination and early diagnosis of cancer. If a person does not have colon cancer in his/her family, it is appropriate for him/her to regularly undergo colonoscopy once every 5 years from the age of 50.
Classic colonoscopy allows you to diagnose the presence of a polyp or cancer, on the other hand it has the ability to treat and prevent the formation of cancer if the patient has a polyp. It is not difficult for the patient to undergo colonoscopy once every 5 years. This is because colonoscopy is now a procedure that is performed by relieving the patient with a intravenous needle and became more tolerable with sedation and analgesic.
How is colon cancer treated?
When the cancer is caught at an early stage, surgery may not be required on polyps taken through colonoscopy in colon cancer. It is only closely monitored. Colonoscopy has great importance in the diagnosis of polyps at an early stage before they develop into cancer. In recently conducted studies, it has been indicated that colon cancer can be considerably prevented through execution of colonoscopy and removal of polyps at early stage. Therefore, every man after the age of 45 and every woman after the age of 50 should undergo examination of faecal occult blood and colonoscopy. Great attention is paid to patient's comfort during colonoscopy. For this reason, the patient is rendered semi-unconscious condition by intravenously injection of analgesics called “conscious sedation”. First, intestine must be completely drained via various methods. Then, intestine is entered by means of fiberoptic camera, and all viewable polyps are removed. However, experience of the physician practicing colonoscopy, and high degree of disinfection and image quality of the device used have great importance.
In advanced colon cancer, standard treatment option is surgery; namely, it refers removal of tumoral area together with some intact tissue and lymph nodes from peripheral area. The conducted studies point outs that the operations performed in accordance with the principles of Oncology by experienced surgeons are the most important factor for the patient's future. Additional preventive chemotherapy is performed depending on the stage of the disease in colon cancer. For example, in “stage III” cases in which the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes adjacent to the intestine, “adjuvant” chemotherapy (which prevents the spread of the disease) is now a standardized practice across the world.
In colon cancers, canceling the anus and transition to abdominal defecation (with colostomy bags) can sometimes be inevitable in the tumors which are too close to the anus. But in recent years, the use of chemotherapy in combination with radiotherapy before surgery can significantly ensure the protection of the anus. In patients whom it have spread to other organs (metastatic), all three methods of treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy) are performed depending on general condition of the patient, his/her age, the degree of prevalence of the disease. The objective is to improve the life expectancy and quality of patients. Owing to target-specific new biological drug treatments found in the last few years, treatment success rates are increasing day by day.
Nutritional styles and screening tests that they will perform have great importance for protecting individuals who have not had colon cancer. It is important to abundantly consume fibrous foods such as vegetables, fruits, and cereals, and to get enough calcium and vitamin D. In addition, screening tests, and early diagnosis as a secondary prevention measure have significant importance. For this, it is recommended that screening tests are performed in both sexes, as from the age of 50 years. Screening tests should be started at earlier age in people who have history of colon cancer in their families.
What should be paid attention after colon cancer treatment?
Nutrition form and consumption should be changed. Spicy, bitter foods should be avoided, and foods that are easy to digest should be consumed more often. To facilitate digestion, slower foods should be consumed. Sausages, salami, and similar meat productions containing additives and are processed should not be consumed. In order to avoid immobility, light exercises should be performed that will not force the body too much. Despite the risk of recurrence, regular follow-up and controls should not be disconnected.
Why should I have colon cancer treatment at Memorial Health Group?
Memorial Health Group, that provides services with its expert academic staff and advanced technological infrastructure, renders service for cancer treatment by offering quality service with its sterile environment, knowledgeable, qualified, and friendly staff. It is possible to recover your health by being provided cancer treatment with early diagnosis that will be made timely.