Colon cancer is now the third leading cancer killer in the United States.
Each year, 60,000 people die due to colon cancer also called colorectal cancer. But the statistics don’t have to be this high. If everybody age 50 or older had regular screening tests, at least one-third of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.
The primary cause of colon cancer is from polyps which grow in the large intestine (colon). A polyp is extra tissue that grows and over time become cancerous.
Early detection from a colonscopy can significantly reduce the risk of developing colon cancer by detecting and removing polyps. When a polyp develops, it continues to grow. If the polyp is left in place, colon cancer can begin to develop within approximately 6 to 8 years. Thus, if polyps are removed, the chance of colon cancer is greatly reduced.
if colon cancer has been detected, the patient will need to be evaluated for the extent of the disease and its location. The patient will usually need a Colonoscopy, CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis, routine blood work, a CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) and surgery.
Surgery is very important in colon cancer since it allows a patient to have the tumor removed (resected) and the lymph nodes in the area of the tumor removed as well. By removing the lymph nodes, the extension of the tumor into the local (regional) lymph nodes can be assessed. This is an important factor in assessing the extent of disease.
The process of determining the extent of disease is known as "staging". Staging of colon cancer is important since it gives your physicians information on which treatments are best and what types of outcomes occur with specific medical treatment regimens.
Colon cancer is staged according to many factors. The main factors are size of the tumor, how aggressive the tumor is, degree of tumor penetration through the wall of the colon, the number lymph nodes in which the tumor is found and whether other organs are involved.
Based upon this, colon cancer patients may receive chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery alone, or in combination.
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