Colon Cancer Q & A
What are the signs of colon cancer?
Colon cancer is one of the most deadly diseases in the United States for the simple fact that it can go undetected for several months. Once the symptoms begin to appear, the cancer has often spread to the lymph nodes or other nearby parts of the body. The most well-known symptoms include:
- Weight loss that can’t be explained
Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
Blood in your stools or abnormal bleeding coming from the rectum
Constant abdominal discomfort, pain, cramping, or gas
Changes in bowel movements that last longer than one or two weeks
It’s possible for you to have one symptom or many of the symptoms. Noticing any changes in your general health or digestive habits warrants an immediate visit to NYGA.
It’s important to be able to recognize even the slightest signs and symptoms of colon cancer. That allows you to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist and have a colonoscopy to determine if there are any abnormalities.
How is colon cancer diagnosed?
If you have a family history of colon cancer or other digestive health issues, it’s crucial for you to have a regular checkup.
During your annual exam, the gastroenterologist draws blood and schedules a colonoscopy. While the blood work can’t detect colon cancer, it does offer insight concerning your overall health and physical well-being.
The colonoscopy shows the inside of your colon, any polyps that are present, as well as any lesions that indicate a more severe problem. If the colonoscopy detects lesions or possible cancerous areas, further tests are run that help to identify what stage the cancer is in.
What are the stages of colon cancer?
Specific tests — including CT scans, abdominal/pelvic scans, and colon cancer surgery — help determine the stage of your colon cancer. Staging colon cancer is a way of letting you know which phase your cancer has reached. The stages include:
Stage 1 – Cancer cells are found outside the lining of the colon but no further
Stage 2 – Cancer has passed through the colon wall but has not been found in the lymph nodes or surrounding tissues
Stage 3 – Cancer cells have been found in the lymph nodes but has not metastasized further
Stage 4 – Cancer cells are present in organs throughout the body
There are many diagnostic tests available that detect cancer in its earliest stages. In some cases, colon cancer surgery is performed to determine the exact extent of the progression of the cancer so that the gastroenterologist can formulate an effective and successful treatment plan.