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Colorectal Cancer by Lacie Ruzicka

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Colon Cancer or Colorectal Cancer is the third leading most diagnosed cancer upon men and women.  It is also the second highest cause of death from cancer in the U.S. This type of cancer begins in the large intestine (colon) or rectum where abnormal cells being to form into polyps. There are two types of polyps called adenomas and hyperplastic polyps.  Some of these polyps can be benign (non-cancerous) while others are malignant (cancerous) If detected early, this form is cancer his highly treatable.

Eating right and limiting your intake of red meats and fatty processed foods can decrease your chance of developing colon cancer.   An active lifestyle and an abundance of exercise will also benefit your fight against cancer.  Colon cancer is caused by not only lifestyle choices but also by genetics.  A family history of colon cancer or a history of ovarian or breast cancer can cause polyps to form.  Age also plays a factor as colon cancer forms at a later age; typically over the age of 50.

Because the early on-set of colon or colorectal cancer causes little to no symptoms in colon cancer patients, it is important to get tested early before you begin to see warning signs and symptoms.  The typical way to test for polyps is with a fecal occult blood test or a colonoscopy.  It is recommended that persons over the age of 50 have a colonoscopy exam every 10 years.  This is performed by viewing the colon and rectum with a tiny camera and checking for polyps.  If polyps are detected, the doctor may choose to remove them during the exam.  An alternative to a colonoscopy would be a virtual colonoscopy.  This test can see everything a normal exam can except if a polyp is detected; a normal exam will be necessary to go in and examine the polyp and remove it if necessary.  Along with a virtual colonoscopy, an x-ray can be performed as well after the patient drinks a solution called barium (a contrasting agent) which allows the doctor to see any tumors or polyps that have formed.  Once a colonoscopy has been performed and polyps are tumors are detected, a biopsy is completed to test for cancer.  Depending on how far the tumor has penetrated the lining of the colon or rectum determines the stage of the cancer.  At stage four, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and may have also spread to other organs such as the lungs or bones.

Once cancer is detected, chemotherapy and radiation can be used to eliminate or weaken cancer symptoms and side effects.  As modern medicine advances, the types of treatments and medications for colon cancer are increasing.  Surgery can also be used to remove tumors and polyps.  While removing the polyps may not treat the cancer, it could cause the symptoms to lessen.  Typically, the stages of cancer also determine the survival rate of a cancer patient.  The 5 year survival rate is used to determine the percentage of life expectancy five years after cancer diagnosis.  Stage I has a survival rate of up to 74% while stage IV has a survival rate of only 6%.

We can all take necessary steps to decrease our chances of developing colon and colorectal cancer.  By living a healthy lifestyle which includes a well-balanced diet and daily exercise; as well as maintaining a healthy weight, we can decrease if not eliminate the risk of cancer.  Also, by getting routine examinations, we are preventing polyp build up with the detection of early cancer diagnosis.


Works Cited:

“The American Cancer Society.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. <http://www.cancer.org/index>.

Colorectal Cancer Slideshow: Screening, Stages, Symptoms, Treatments, and Risk Factors.” WebMD. Ed. Laura J. Martin M.D. WebMD, 13 July 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. <http://www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/ss/slideshow-colorectal-cancer-overview>.

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