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Colon Cancer

Symptoms and treatment of colon cancer

Colon cancer often begins with the growth of benign (non-dangerous) polyps along the wall of the large intestine. Over time these growths can become malignant and have the potential to invade adjacent tissues and organs, so swift diagnosis and treatment is ideal.

Symptoms

The symptoms of many kinds of cancer are vague, which can delay diagnosis. These symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, a change in bowel habits (such as narrow stools or diarrhea), red or dark blood in your feces, weight loss, bloating and abdominal pain.

These symptoms can occur in other, less serious illnesses, so it is essential that you see a medical practitioner for a qualified diagnosis of the underlying cause. If colon cancer is suspected, then an endoscopy will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis and assess how far your particular case of colonic cancer has progressed. This procedure is relatively painless, and will help your oncologist recommend the best treatment for you.

Treatment

The most common treatment for colon cancer is to remove the tumor and adjacent lymph nodes surgically. A small piece of healthy tissue is also removed to ensure that all of the cancerous cells have been eradicated from the site. In the early stage of colon cancer, surgery is often the only treatment needed.

Depending on how deeply the tumor has penetrated the wall of the large intestine you may be placed on a course of chemotherapy in addition to the surgery. This is to ensure that any cancer cells which may have spread to other tissues and organs are treated and destroyed. Chemotherapy is a general term used to cover a wide range of chemical treatments. Your oncologist will discuss the options available to you.

Chemotherapy can be a very trying, painful and traumatic experience. Open communication, not only with your health practitioner but also with your family and friends, will help you to cope. Remember that you are not alone. Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the Western population. Joining support groups allows you to meet people who are sharing your experiences, and may give you a better understanding of how to manage your own recovery.

Lifestyle

As a patient, there are several lifestyle changes that you can do to aid the efficiency of these treatments and give yourself a better chance of a complete recovery:

  • A diet high in fiber and carbohydrates can help reduce the risk of cancer recurring. Ensure you are getting five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and limit your portions of processed, red meat to two a week. Additionally maintaining a healthy weight through balanced diet and moderate exercise will improve your overall fitness and protect you from recurrent colon cancer. It's also important to avoid smoking and drinking. This will reduce the strain on your body, particularly your liver.
  • Listening to your body after surgery and / or chemotherapy is essential. Pushing yourself too hard will only slow your recovery and prolong your discomfort.
  • Patients who are diagnosed early have a better prognosis after treatment because the cancer has had less time to grow and the chance that it has spread to other sites in your body is reduced. Be aware of your own health, and always consult a medical practitioner if you are worried. It is better to ask and be told that nothing is wrong than to remain silent and concerned.

By A. Bertram

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