While the exact cause of colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is unknown, we know that the majority of colon cancers develop from abnormal growths on the lining of the colon or rectum called polyps or lesions. Anyone can develop colon cancer, but people at a higher risk for colon cancer may meet 1 or more of the following criteria:
- Age 50 or older
- African-American race
- Personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps
- Inflammatory bowel disease or other gastrointestinal (GI) issues
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Heavy alcohol use
- Radiation therapy for cancer
Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States.
Abnormal polyps and lesions could become cancerous
If polyps and lesions are left undetected, they can slowly develop into colon cancer. Early detection and removal of these polyps and lesions are essential to cancer prevention.
Are you at risk for colon cancer?
Stages of colon cancer
As with any cancer, colon cancer has stages that describe the extent of the cancer in the body. The stage of colon cancer depends on how far the cancer has grown into the walls of the intestine and beyond. Staging is based on the results of a physical exam, biopsies, and imaging tests. The stage is essential in determining the prognosis and treatment options. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, staged, and treated, the better the prospects for survival.
||Cancer has yet to grow beyond the inner lining of the colon.
||Cancer is larger than stage 0 and has grown more deeply into, or possibly all the way through, the colon. Survival is very likely (91% for stage I, and 80% for stage II).
||Cancer has spread to lymph nodes. Survival rate is 65%.
||Cancer has spread to other organs and is generally incurable, with a survival rate of 10%.
Can colon cancer be prevented?
Because colon cancer develops in the digestive tract, diet and colon cancer may be related. In addition to regular screening exams to detect colorectal cancer, you can make some simple lifestyle and diet changes to reduce your risk.
- Add more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to your diet
- Eat less red meat
- Reduce fat, increase fiber
- Stop smoking
- Reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake
- Aim for some moderate physical activity every day
- Maintain a healthy weight