Introduction to Colon Cancer
Colon cancer, also known as bowel cancer, is a cancer that affects large bowel, rectum (back passage) or appendix. It is the third most common cancer in the UK.
What is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer, also known as bowel cancer, is a cancer that affects large bowel, rectum (back passage) or appendix. It is the third most common cancer in the UK. About one in every 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.
What causes Colon Cancer?
Cancer takes place when cells in a specific area divides uncontrollably. Continuous division results in a mast of cells called a tumour. The exact cause of what causes cancer to develop inside the bowel is still not known, however there are several factors that are shown to increase your likelihood of developing the cancer. Almost 9 out of 10 cases in the UK are in people over the age of 60. Studies have shown that presence of bowel cancer in a close relative or following diets that contain high red and processed meat may increase your risk of developing the condition. Cigarettes, alcohols and being obese also contribute to the development.
What are the symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Signs depend on the location of the tumour in the bowel and whether it has spread to other places in the body. Common symptoms include constipation, blood in the stool, decrease in stool thickness, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea and vomiting.
How is Colon Cancer treated?
A multidisciplinary team including a cancer surgeon, an oncologist, a radiologist and a nurse will discuss and come up with the best treatment suited for you, depending on the type and size of your cancer.
Surgery is the usually the main treatment. Early detection of bowel cancer may allow a complete cure, although in some cases the cancer can recur at a later stage. In cases where surgery is needed, colectomy (removal of an entire section of your colon) is performed, either by making a large cut on your abdomen or by using a laparoscopic technique where many small incisions are made in your abdomen. The latter is assisted by camera and has an advantage of quicker recovery time. All surgical operations carry some risks including bleeding, possible infection and development of clots, so you should discuss with the team who cares for you before deciding.
In complex cases where the cancer cannot be cured, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used in combination to control the symptoms and spread of the cancer by destroying any remaining cancer cells. They can also be used to shrink the tumour pre-surgery. Medications such as bevacizumab, cetuximab and panitumumab are monoclonal antibodies that are designed to bind to the cancer cells and stop them from growing.