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 About Colon Cancer
TOPICS:

What is the colon and how does it work?

The colon is the large intestine; it is the lower part of your digestive tract. The intestine is a long, tubular organ consisting of the small intestine, the colon (large intestine) and the rectum, which is the last part of the colon. After food is swallowed, it begins to be digested in the stomach and then empties into the small intestine, where the nutritional part of the food is absorbed. The remaining waste moves through the colon to the rectum and is expelled from the body. The colon measures about 5 feet long and 2.5 inches in diameter. The lumen (interior) of the colon has a delicate lining. In addition to lubricating the passage of waste through the colon, this moist lining protects underlying tissues and the nerve endings that extend down into the colon wall. The colon and rectum absorb water and hold the waste until you are ready to expel it.

What is colon cancer?Polyps in the colon. Some polyps have a stalk and others do not. Inset shows a photo of a polyp with a stalk.
A cancer is a group of cells (usually derived from a single cell) that has lost its normal control mechanisms and thus has unregulated growth. Cancerous (malignant) cells can develop from any tissue within any organ. As cancerous cells grow and multiply, they form a mass of cancerous tissue—called a tumor—that invades and destroys normal adjacent tissues. The term "tumor" refers to an abnormal growth or mass; tumors can be cancerous or non cancerous. Cancerous cells from the primary (initial) site can spread (metastasize) throughout the body. Colon cancer develops in the colon and/or small bowel. In most cases, colon cancer begins as a benign, or non-cancerous, polyp on the bowel wall and eventually increases in size and becomes cancerous. Unfortunately, many polyps and early cancers fail to produce symptoms. The key to survival is early detection of this type of cancer because it is curable in its early stages. If everyone aged 50 and older had regular colorectal cancer screening tests, more than one-third of deaths from this cancer could be avoided. When diagnosed and treated in the early stages, between 80 - 90 percent of colon cancer patients return to their normal health.

Staging of Colon Cancer
Stage 0: Cancer has not grown beyond the inner lining of your colon.
Treatment: Removal of the tumor through the colonoscope or surgical resection of the colon.
Stage I: Cancer has grown through several layers of the colon.
Treatment: Surgical resection of the colon.
Stage II: Cancer has grown into the wall of the colon and may have extended into nearby tissue. Treatment: Surgical resection of the colon and potential radiation therapy.
Stage III: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but not other parts of the body.
Treatment: Surgical resection of the colon, chemotherapy, and potential radiation therapy.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant organs and tissues.
Treatment: Surgical resection of the colon, chemotherapy, and potential radiation therapy.
Recurrent: Cancer has returned after treatment.
Treatment: Chemotherapy and potential surgical resection of the colon.


Colon Cancer Facts and Stats

  • Both men and women are at risk.
  • Overall, colon cancers are the third most common cancers in men and women,
    and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
  • Ninety-three percent of cases occur in people aged 50 and older. The risk of developing it increases with age.
  • Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both African American men and
    women in the United States.
  • Colon cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both Hispanic
    and Latino men and women.
  • In 2004, an estimated 146,940 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States.
    Of these new cancer cases, 106,370 will be colon cancer and 40,570 will be rectal
    cancer. This means someone will be diagnosed every four minutes.
  • An estimated 56,730 deaths are expected to occur in 2004, accounting for
    approximately 10 percent of cancer deaths this year in the United States.
  • African Americans have the highest death rate from colon cancer of any racial or
    ethnic group in the United States.
  • Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among African
    American men and women combined
  • Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic and
    Latino men and women combined.
  • One out of 18 people in the United States will develop colon
    cancer in their lifetime.

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This information is not intended to take the place of your discussion with your surgeon about your need for colon surgery. If you have questions about your need for a colon operation, your alternatives, the cost of the procedure, billing or insurance, or your surgeon's training and experience, do not hesitate to ask your surgeon or his/her office staff about it. If you have questions about the operation or subsequent follow-up, please discuss them with your surgeon before or after the operation. Terms of Use