Colon cancer: 7 symptoms to spot this not-so-silent “enemy” - SANTE PLUS MAG

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Affecting both sexes, colorectal cancer can manifest in the colon or rectum. The earlier the detection, the more effective the treatment. According to Prof. Michel Ducreux, head of the digestive oncology department at the Gustave-Roussy institute, the cure would concern nearly 9 out of 10 people when it is detected early enough. Here is the key information to remember, relayed by theNational Cancer Institute in France. 

Colon cancer - Source: Forbes

Colon cancer, what you need to know 

Colon cancer is a pathology of cells lining the inner wall of the eponymous area. In order to develop, a normal cell must undergo transformation and multiply in an anarchic manner, which will give rise to a malignant tumor. In the early stages of the disease, cancer cells are confined to the lining. We therefore refer to what is called cancer in situ. 

If the latter is left untreated, other layers inside the wall begin to be affected by the tumor, resulting in invasive cancer. In other cases, cancer cells can spread outside the tumor, passing through the blood or lymph vessels. They can affect the liver, brain, peritoneum, bones, or even lymph nodes near the colon. We then speak of metastases to illustrate the formation of these new tumors. A development that doctors closely examine during the diagnosis to identify the treatments best suited to the patient's situation. 

8 times out of 10, the development of colon cancer is made from a benign tumor. We speak of adenoma or adenomatous polyp. These non-cancerous tumors are often not serious, but in 2 to 3% of cases they eventually grow and grow in size and turn into cancer. A process that would take more than ten years on average, according to the Institute. 

At first, it is also possible that no symptoms appear because the disease is still in its early stages. Usually, the physical repercussions manifest as the tumor progresses. Note that other pathologies can cause symptoms identical to those of colon cancer, hence the need to seek medical advice to rule out any underlying cause. 

Healthy living must be monitored - Source: Everyday Health

Causes and risk factors of colorectal cancer

Age is considered to be one of the risk factors for developing colorectal cancer. And for good reason, nearly 90% of those affected are over 50 years old according to the Dr Mathilde Soule, digestive surgeon in Paris. We define moreover 3 levels of risk for both sexes: 

- Very high risk: il concerned those who have a genetic condition such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome.

- High risk : it affects smokers, those with a family or personal history of colorectal cancer, and individuals with chronic inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

- Medium risk: It concerns those over 50.

Namely, when an individual is suspected of being genetically predisposed to colorectal cancer, doctors follow up and refer the patient to an oncogeneticist for constitutional gene analysis. In the event of a hereditary and genetic defect, first-degree related family members will be offered a screening test. 

The hygiene of life is also involved and can have an impact on the occurrence of colon cancer. This is what we call avoidable risk factors. Among them : 

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity
  • Increased consumption of red meats
  • A diet too rich in animal fats
  • Overweight
Symptoms of colorectal cancer - Source: Everyday Health

9 colon cancer symptoms to watch out for

If its evolution is generally slow and not very symptomatic, it is always wise to know the symptoms associated with the disease in order to act quickly for a good management. The National Cancer Institute cites 9 signs to watch out for to consult your doctor quickly: 

  • The presence of blood in the stool
  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea that lasts a long time
  • Sudden or worsening constipation
  • Alternating phases of constipation and diarrhea
  • A mass when palpating the abdomen
  • A continuous urge to have a bowel movement
  • Anemia with no identified cause
  • A general deterioration in health characterized by fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss or difficulty in feeding

Colon cancer may also be suspected during organized screening for colorectal cancers when looking for blood in stool gives a positive result. 

Prevent colorectal cancer through screening

Between the ages of 50 and 74, screening should be done every 2 years. Indeed, this test increases the chances of detect the disease at an early stage to remove non-cancerous polyps or to treat cancer early if it is found. The organized screening program concerns people showing no particular symptoms linked to colorectal cancer and those who have no predisposition linked to their family or personal history. 

Prevent Colon Cancer - Source: Everyday Health

Colon cancer: how to protect yourself on a daily basis?

While there are risk factors that are beyond our control, other behaviors can be controlled to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. These include preventable risk factors, most of which are linked to our lifestyle. For this reason, Dr Soule advises to protect your digestive tract by adopting the following measures:

- Increase your fiber consumption: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, grain products, and legumes, get plenty of fiber as it helps keep the digestive system healthy and helps keep your digestive system healthy. have a more regular intestinal transit. They also help stimulate the movement of food in the colon and increase the volume of stool, in addition to nourishing the microbiota (the good bacteria in the colon). 

- Limit the consumption of red meats, cold cuts and foods high in animal fats.

- Limit your alcohol consumption which represents the 2nd preventable cause of cancer mortality.

- Stop smoking which, in addition to increasing the risk of several pathologies, promotes the occurrence of colorectal cancer.

- Losing weight in case of obesity or overweight also monitoring his BMI (body mass index)

- Practice a physical activity regular adapted to his state of health. 

According to one magazine of the Arc Foundation for Cancer Research, the risk of colon cancer occurring in people who exercise vigorously is 18% lower in men and 20% lower in women, compared to subjects whose exercise is very limited. An opinion joined by Dr. Soule who recalls that "physical activity has a protective effect on many diseases, in particular on colon cancer". 

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