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Colon cancer: Signs,Symptoms & Treatment

by Dr. Himani Singh
Published: Last Updated on
Colon Cancer
  • What is cancer?
  • What is the colon?
  • The function of the Colon
  • What does the colon do?
  • Overview about colorectal cancer
  • What is colorectal cancer?
  • What are the stages of colorectal cancer?
  • Symptoms of colorectal cancer?
  • Risk factors
  • How you can keep your colon healthy
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment for colorectal cancer
  • Natural Remedies for the prevention of colon cancer

What is cancer?

The human body is made up of groups of many cells. Experts say that our body need these cells to get to grow, divide and make new types of cells. Usually in time cells get too old and thus, they die. It’s during this time that new cells take the place of old cells. Therefore, Cancer probably starts when your body cells keep making new cells but the old and abnormal cells of the body don’t die.

We can define cancer as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells anywhere in our body. Cancer refers to one of a large number of diseases. These abnormal cells could be converted into cancer cells, malignant cells, or tumour cells. Experts identify almost 200 different types of cancers worldwide. Different types of cancer represent different diseases and there are also different kinds of treatments for various types of cancer.

What is the colon?

We all also recognise the colon as the large bowel or large intestine. This is a part of the digestive system / digestive tract. Our digestive system allows us to eat and to use food as fuel for our body’s movement and function.

The function of the Colon

The colon plays the role of your personal plumbing system. The role of the tubular organ in our body is to remove waste products. As we know, colon also works like our digestive system. So it works alongside with stomach and small intestine for the removal of stool and maintaining our body fluid and electrolyte balance.

What does the colon do?

The colon plays a big role in how our body will use the food we eat.

Here is how food travels through the body.

The Cancer
  • Food begins in the mouth where the teeth chew them into smaller pieces. After that, we swallow the food, which then travels through the Oesophagus. It eventually connects with the stomach.
  • In the stomach, digestive juices further break the food down into liquid. This then passes on to the small bowel (intestine).
  • In the small bowel, the food breakdown continues with the assistance of the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. It’s here that all the absorption of vitamins and nutrients obtained from food occurs.
  • What is left over, which is mostly liquid, then moves into the colon. The water is absorbed in the colon. Bacteria play an essential role here in the breakdown of all remaining material in the colon. After this, the remaining material reaches the rectum. The colon does this work.
  • The rectum is like a storage-holder for this waste. Rectum muscles move the stool, out of the body through the help of the anus.

Overview about colorectal cancer:

Many believe that colorectal cancer (CRC) is more responsible for the morbidity and mortality rate all over the world. Additionally, most of the developing countries are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. It accounts for over 9% of all cancer incidences.

Different data records say that the risk of developing colorectal cancer in men is 1 in 23 (4.3%) and in women is 1 in 25 (4.0%). C.R.C is the third most common cancer that causes death in the whole world.

You can trace most colon cancer cases to old age and lifestyle factors. On the other hand, there are only some cases that trace to underlying genetic disorders. Colorectal cancer symptoms often do not appear until cancer has advanced. Thus, it’s important to have regular colorectal cancer screenings. Normally colon cancer begins as small, noncancerous clumps of cells, known as polyps that form on the inside of the colon.

Gradually, some of these polyps take the form of colon cancer over time. That’s why your doctors suggest you from time to time take screening tests that help prevent and identify colon cancer and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.

What is Colorectal cancer?

Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and can affect nearby tissues of the body. When this type of growth occurs in the colon or rectum, it is colorectal cancer (C.R.C).

Most colorectal cancers develop in the form of polyps, which represent abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that can be cancerous if they are not removed in time.

What are the stages of colorectal cancer?

Stage 0

One can say this is the earliest stage of colon cancer. This means it hasn’t grown in the innermost layer of the colon. Doctors also call this stage Carcinoma in situ. If the lesion is big then its requires removal via colonoscopy or by surgery.

Stage I

In this stage colorectal cancers have grown into the wall of the intestine but have not spread beyond its lymph nodes. Most treatments of this stage do by removal of the affected part of the colon and lymph nodes.

Stage II

In this stage, cancer has grown beyond the mucosa and the submucosa of the colon. We can further divide this stage into three smaller stages.

  • 2A Stage: The cancer has spread through the wall of the colon.
  • 2B Stage: During this stage, cancer has penetrated beyond the muscular layers of the large intestine.
  • 2C Stage: One may not find the cancer in nearby lymph nodes, but cancer has even spread into adjacent tissue.

This stage of colon cancer is treated by surgical removal and chemotherapy also referred after surgery.

Stage III

This stage considered an advanced stage of cancer because in this stage cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Again this stage of colon cancer is classified as stage 3A, 3B, and 3C:

  • 3A stage: In this phase cancer has moved beyond the colon wall and spread to one to three lymph nodes.
  • 3B stage: Now, the cancer has moved more lymph nodes and almost one to fourth lymph nodes affected. Even in this stage cancer also impacts the organs in the abdomen.
  • 3C stage: In this phase, cancer has grown beyond the muscular layers and 4 or more lymph nodes get affected, but not distant sites.

Surgery is the first treatment for this stage of cancer but chemotherapy and radiation may proceed.

Stage IV

In this stage cancer, has spread to distant organs such as the liver, lungs, or ovaries. This stage also consists of three sub-stages

  • 4A stage: Cancer has spread to lymph nodes that are farther from the colon.
  • 4B stage: It has moved to more lymph nodes.
  • 4C stage: The Cancer has impacted lymph nodes, and the tissue of the abdomen also.

In this stage of colon cancer, surgery is generally used for preventing complications as opposed to curing the patient of the disease.

In 40 percent of all colon cancer cases, diagnosis occurs at an advanced stage, when surgery is likely the best option.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

  • Changes in bowel habits,
  • Worsening constipation,
  • Blood in the stool,
  • Stool thickness,
  • Loss of weight & appetite
  • Nausea,
  • Diarrhoea,
  • Feeling like bowel does not empty clearly after a bowel movement,
  • Pain and bloating in the abdomen,
  • Feeling full all time in the abdomen,
  • Excessive gas,
  • Weight loss,
  • Iron deficiency in men, and after menopause in women
Colon Pain

If colon cancer spreads to other parts then you may also experience:

  • Jaundice,
  • Difficulties in the breathing,
  • Not clear vision,
  • Fractures in bones,
  • Swelling in the hands or feet,
  • Chronic headaches

If symptoms persist for 4 weeks or more then the person should visit doctor immediately.

Risk factors:

Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:

  • Older age: By the way, this cancer can occur at any age, but majorly affects people above 50 years of age. Increasing age is the main risk factor for developing this colorectal cancer. Around 90% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed after age 50 but doctors aren’t sure why.
  • Being overweight: If you are overweight, your have a higher risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer. Although this type of cancer can occur in both men and women due to being overweight, but the chances of getting this cancer in men is very high.
  • Race: More than the people of other races, African and Americans have a higher incidence of colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: A person who has been smoking for a very long time is more likely to develop this type of cancer.
  • Use of Alcohol: People who consume alcohol moderately or in very high forms are also likely to develop this type of cancer.
  • Genetics factor: Having a first-degree relative with colorectal cancer, especially if the cancer was diagnosed before the age of 55 years, roughly doubles the risk of developing the condition. Approximately 20% of cancers are associated with a family history of colon cancer.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: If you are suffering with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, your risk of colorectal cancer is higher.
  • Diabetes: People who are suffering from diabetes are more likely to develop this type of cancer.
  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet: People who eat low fibre and high fat and calories diet, have more chances of getting this type of cancer.
  • Night shift work: Some studies suggest working a night shift regularly might raise the risk of colon cancer. This may be due to changes in levels of melatonin hormone.

How you can keep your colon healthy:

Help your colon function at its best by:

  • • Eating a high-fiber diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • • Drinking plenty of fresh water daily
  • • Try to manage your preexisting diabetes
  • • Limiting red meat and processed meat consumption
  • • Get daily exercise
  • • Decreasing stress
  • • Stop using tobacco products including cigarettes and snuff
  • • Intake alcohol in very moderate way
  • • Decreasing the amount of red meat and processed meat you eat
  • • Try to eating more plant-based foods


By screening, we can detect polyps before they become cancerous.

Here are some screening and diagnostic procedures for detecting colorectal cancer.

Colonoscopy to treat Colon Cancer
  • Blood stool test: This test is done by the patient’s stool (faeces) for the presence of blood. But this test is not 100-percent accurate, because not all cancers cause a loss of blood so this test can give a false-negative result.
  • Medical imaging: Some time metastases can be determined by a CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. PET and MRI also can be proved helpful in certain cases.
  • Histopathology: Histopathology is known as the main tool utilised for the diagnosis of different types of cancer. Histopathology typically involves a biopsy, which is a procedure involving taking a small sample of infected tissue. This technique based on haematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained slides for the evaluation of tumours.
  • Staging: We can find out the radio-logical and pathological findings of cancer by staging. This staging is based on the TNM system by this way we can considers how much the initial tumour has spread and the presence of metastases in lymph nodes and more distant organs.
  • Barium enema X-ray: Barium is a contrast dye that is used to keep the patient’s bowel in an enema form. By X-ray, we can see a clear image of the rectum, colon, and occasionally of a small part of the small intestine too. If your doctor detects anything abnormal by these techniques, they will recommend a colonoscopy.
  • Colonoscopy: In the colonoscopy, your doctor examines your colon and rectum with the help of a long tube , attached with a small camera attached. By colonoscopy, your doctor can see clearly inside your colon and rectum to check for anything unusual. Thus, Colonoscopies are most effective in detecting benign growths that may develop into colorectal cancer.
  • Stool DNA test: By this test, we can analyse several DNA markers that colon cancers or precancerous polyps cells shed into the stool. The accuracy in detecting colon cancer is more good than detecting polyps by this test.

Treatment for colorectal cancer:

  • Surgery: In the earliest stages of colorectal cancer, there’s a possibility that your surgeon can remove cancerous polyps through surgery. Furthermore though, if your cancer has spread into your bowel walls, your surgeon may need to remove a portion of the colon/rectum along with any neighbouring lymph nodes.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of anti-cancer drugs for the treatment of different types of cancer. It’s injected by vein or taken by mouth. Furthermore, these drugs travel most parts of the body through the bloodstream. Chemotherapy is thus, generally used for the treatment of colorectal cancer. For people suffering from colorectal cancer, chemotherapy commonly takes place after surgery. That’s because chemo has the ability to destroy any lingering cancerous cells. In colon and rectum cancer, chemotherapy may be used in addition to surgery in certain cases. Obviously, the decision to do chemotherapy depends on the medical practitioner looking at the stage of the disease.
  • Immuno-therapy: Immuno-therapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors has been found to be useful for a type of colorectal cancer with mismatch repair deficiency and micro-satellite instability.
  • Radiation therapy: It generally uses high-energy rays (such as x-rays) for the destruction of cancer cells. Mostly, it’s used to treat rectal rather than colon cancer. Furthermore, a doctor would prescribe External radiotherapy usually daily, for 5 days a week, with a break at the weekend. This treatment differs from patient to patient, depending on the size of cancer.

Natural Remedies for the prevention of colon cancer:

Many research suggests that few natural remedies or alternative therapies may helpful for reducing colon cancer risk. Here are some key study findings:

  • Vitamin D: Getting enough calcium and vitamin D may be linked with a lower risk of colon cancer. Statistics of many patients say that those suffering from colon cancer, consumed calcium and vitamin D in the right amount. After some time though, their colon cancer decreased. Doctors recommend that a person eat 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D every day.
  • Quercetin: Many scientists have found in their lab research that Quercetin is beneficial for reducing the growth of colon cancer. In fact, Quercetin works like an antioxidant. This quercetin is naturally found in apples, onions, garlic and berries. Consuming these fruits can be helpful in reducing your colon cancer.
  • Folate: Numerous studies have shown that consuming enough folate may prevent you from colon cancer. Folate is the form of vitamin B9. Thus, Leafy vegetables are the best dietary sources of folate. Foods like spinach, asparagus, oranges, citrus fruits, green soybeans, lentils, and fortified cereals are full of folate.
  • Coffee: Many researches have concluded that higher levels of coffee consumption are associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. Patient data also showed that drinking a cup of coffee each day reduces the mortality rate by as much as 20% with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil contains many antioxidants and anti-cancer properties. Consumption of Olive oil reduces bile acid and increases enzymes. Thus, by this way, olive oil is responsible for the regulation of cell turnover in the lining of the intestine. It also helps in promoting healthy tissue.
  • Carrots: Carrots are full of beta-carotene, which is responsible for the slowdown of the growth of abnormal cells. You can reduce your colon cancer by including carrots in your food every day.

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