Colon Polyps & Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is a tumor that develops in the large intestine. When it develops in the rectum, it is called rectal cancer. The vast majority of colon cancers develop from polyps that can grow over years to become cancerous. Colon polyps are small growths that develop from the lining of the colon. They are very common and they can occur in 30% to 50% of adults. Polyps occur in both men and women of all races. They are slow growing and many of them do not turn into cancer. Most polyps are small and do not cause any symptoms. They can be safely and completely removed and prevented from becoming cancerous.
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
- Blood in the stools (red blood or black stools)
- Weight loss (if the tumor has spread outside the colon)
- Weakness or fatigue (the tumor can cause blood loss and low blood counts)
- Colon cancer may be completely asymptomatic (no symptoms)
- Age more than 50. However more recently the incidence of colon and rectal cancer in younger people has been increasing.
- Personal history of colon cancer or colon polyps
- Family history of colon cancer
- Certain inherited genetic syndromes
- Inflammatory bowel diseases of the colon (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Diet high in fat, low in fiber, high in red meat
When to see a doctor:
Anyone at age 50 or older needs to be screened for colon cancer. Colonoscopy is the preferred test for colon cancer screening and it is recommended for any healthy person aged 50 or older. Other screening tests are also available. If you have symptoms at any age you need to talk to your doctor and if you have a family history of colon cancer you need to discuss with your doctor when to start screening as you may need to start at an earlier age.
- CT colonography
- Stool tests
Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death among men and women in the U.S., however, this does not need to be the case. Colon cancer is preventable. Please talk to your doctor about getting screened to find polyps, remove them and prevent colon cancer.