As many will know, one of our greatest friends and patrons, Congressman Donald Payne, passed away this year from colon cancer. Initially it was hoped that the cancer had been caught in time and that he would make a full recovery. Unfortunately his condition deteriorated and he sadly died on the 6th March 2012. He was 77.
As a means of highlighting the devastating effect of this disease, NSL has reproduced a small guide into the illness created by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. For the full article, please click the picture link on the right hand side.
Prognosis: According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, early diagnosis can often lead to a complete cure. Almost all colon cancer starts in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. When doctors talk about colorectal cancer, this is usually what they are talking about. There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.
Symptoms: Many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms. The following symptoms, however, may indicate colon cancer and so should be checked out by your local doctor or GP.
• Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
• Blood in the stool
• Diarrhea, constipation, or other change in bowel habits
• Narrow stools
• Weight loss with no known reason
Signs and tests: With proper screening, colon cancer can be detected before symptoms develop, when it is most curable. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and press on your belly area. The physical exam rarely shows any problems, although the doctor may feel a lump in the abdomen. A rectal exam may reveal a mass in patients with rectal cancer, but not colon cancer.
A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) may detect small amounts of blood in the stool, which could suggest colon cancer. However, this test is often negative in patients with colon cancer. For this reason, a FOBT must be done along with colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. It is also important to note that a positive FOBT doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.
If your doctor learns that you do have colorectal cancer, more tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. CT or MRI scans of the abdomen, pelvic area, chest, or brain may be used to stage the cancer. Sometimes, PET scans are also used.
Stages of colon cancer are:
• Stage 0: Very early cancer on the innermost layer of the intestine
• Stage I: Cancer is in the inner layers of the colon
• Stage II: Cancer has spread through the muscle wall of the colon
• Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
• Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other organs
Prognosis: Colon cancer is, in many cases, a treatable disease if it is caught early. How well you do depends on many things, especially the stage of the cancer. In general, when treated at an early stage, many patients survive at least 5 years after their diagnosis. (This is called the 5-year survival rate). If the colon cancer does not come back (recur) within 5 years, it is considered cured. Stage I, II, and III cancers are considered potentially curable. In most cases, stage IV cancer is not considered curable, although there are exceptions.
Calling your health care provider if you have any of the following conditions:
•Black, tar-like stools
•Blood during a bowel movement
•Change in bowel habits
•Unexplained weight loss
Prevention: The death rate for colon cancer has dropped in the last 15 years. This may be due to increased awareness and screening by colonoscopy. Colon cancer can almost always be caught by colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. Almost all men and women age 50 and older should have a colon cancer screening. Patients at risk may need earlier screening. Colon cancer screening can often find polyps before they become cancerous. Removing these polyps may prevent colon cancer. Changing your diet and lifestyle is important. Some evidence suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce your risk of colon cancer.