Colon Cancer

Colon cancer has become more common recently in he western world. Not only it now affects more individuals, but it affects those in younger age as well. It is well recognized that there is a role of genetic predisposition to colon cancer. This means that individuals born to parents who had history of colon cancer, are at increased risk of developing colon cancer compared to those whose parents did not. What is also recognized is the role of diet habits. Frequent consumption of red meat, foods with high content of fat, proteins and calories are more often associated with development of colon cancer. The exact opposite is true for foods rich in fiber.

Colon cancer can be diagnosed at an early and completely treatable stage if colonoscopy were performed every 5 years. Colon cancer arises from colon polyps. All colon polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy any time they may develop. This does not mean that all polyps turn out to become cancer, but certainly all colon cancers had initially been just polyps. By eliminating all polyps, the risk of colon cancer may be actually reduced to nil. When colon cancer develops, its symptoms depend on its exact location along the length of the colon. If the cancer arises in the right side of the colon (the first part, where feces are still liquid), patients present with anemia. If the cancer arises in the left side (the lower part, where feces are more solid), patients may present with constipation, or with red blood from the anus. It is important to note that a patient with known hemorrhoids, who passes red blood with a bowel movement, should not be assumed that its origin is the hemorrhoids, until a colonoscopy has been performed and a co-existing colon cancer is definitively ruled-out.

The treatment of colon cancer is the surgical removal of the involved segment of the colon (colectomy) along with all the lymph nodes corresponding to that segment. Then, the two cut ends of the colon are connected and bowel continuity is re-established. Nowadays, this operation can be performed laparoscopically.