Colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer, develops in the colon or rectum. The colon is part of the digestive tract that helps the body absorb nutrients from food. The colon absorbs nutrients and water. It then stores the waste until it can be passed from the body through the rectum. This type of cancer usually begins in the lining cells of the colon or rectum. It then continues to grow through all of the layers of the tissue.
Colon cancer typically begins as a polyp. There are several types of polyps. Some are noncancerous, or benign, and will not develop into colon cancer. Others called adenomatous polyps, that can develop into colon cancer over time. Polyps are typically removed during a colonoscopy, which is a type of screening used to detect colon cancer. Having a regular colonoscopy is recommended after the age of 50. Regular colonoscopies can help reduce most colon cancers from developing because they are caught early. Polyps often do not produce any symptoms.
Cancer is a result of cells that develop errors in the DNA when they copy and divide. These cells lose the signal that tells then it is time to die, and they continue to grow and multiply indefinitely. These cells accumulate into a tumor, which is a cancerous growth.
Certain factors place you at a greater risk of developing colon cancer. A family history of colon cancer is one risk factor. African Americans tend to be at a greater risk than other demographic groups, as well as those who are older. Inflammatory intestinal conditions increase the risk for cancer. A sedentary lifestyle, low fiber-high fat diet, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption also contribute to colon cancer.
- Change in bowel habits or stool consistency that lasts more than four weeks
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- A feeling of incomplete bowel emptying
- Weakness or Fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss