Cancer of the large intestine – the colon – is more likely to hit you if you are over the age of 50 and a man. In fact, 90 percent of the cases and 93 percent of the deaths from colorectal cancer occur in people age 50 and above. The median age for the diagnosis is 69 in men and 73 in women. But how do you know if you're next? The signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:
· A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks
· Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
· Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
· A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
· Weakness or fatigue
· Unexplained weight loss
Should you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor. But just as importantly, check with your doctor about when you should begin screening for colon cancer. Guidelines generally recommend that colon cancer screenings begin at age 50. Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier screening if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of the disease.
If your doctor gives you a confirmed diagnosis of colorectal cancer, the three treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Which he prescribes will be contingent upon the how far the cancer has advanced.
The four stages are:
· Stage One, in which your cancer has grown through the superficial lining of the colon or rectum but hasn't spread beyond the colon wall or rectum;
· Stage Two, characterized by your cancer having grown into or through the wall of the colon or rectum but not having spread to nearby lymph nodes;
· Stage Three, in which your cancer has invaded nearby lymph nodes but is not affecting other parts of your body yet.
· Stage Four, wherein your cancer has spread to distant sites, such as other organs — for instance, to your liver or lung.
Surgery can be minimally in early-stage colorectal cancer, even as slight as removal of polyps during a colonscopy. Polyps that cannot be removed during that procedure may be attacked during a follow-up laproscopic surgical procedure.
Surgery for stage two colorectal cancer will likely involve a partial colectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon removes the part of your colon that contains the cancer, along with a margin of normal tissue on either side of the cancer. Your surgeon is often able to reconnect the healthy portions of your colon or rectum. A colostomy, creating a way for waste to leave your body, may also be required, which may be only temporary.
Surgery to address stage three colorectal cancer will usually involve the removal of your lymph nodes. For very late-stage colorectal cancer surgery, your surgeon may recommend an operation to relieve a blockage of your colon or other conditions in order to improve your symptoms. This surgery is not done to cure cancer, but instead to relieve symptoms such as bleeding and pain.
Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells – is usually only administered after surgery, and at stage three. Radiation therapy, which uses various-spectrum energy, may be used after surgery to kill off straggler cancer cells, before surgery to shrink large tumors and make them more manageable, or to relieve symptoms of colon cancer and rectal cancer.