Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, which is the lower portion of the digestive system. In most cases, colon cancer begins as benign or precancerous clumps of cells called polyps, and over time, those polyps can become cancerous. Unfortunately, a direct cause of colon cancer is not yet clear; however, there are several risk factors including age, family history, inherited syndromes, diet, and lifestyle that do increase your chances of developing colon cancer. It is recommended that people with an average risk of colon cancer begin screenings at age 50.
The importance of a colonoscopy
A colonoscopy allows a doctor to look for polyps, which are small growths in the colon that can become cancerous, and other signs of cancer. If your doctor finds a polyp, tumor, or an abnormality, he or she will remove the tissue for a biopsy.
Colonoscopies are recommended to begin at age 50, unless specified by a doctor. If no abnormalities are found, you can go up to 10 years without another colonoscopy.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
- Change in bowel habits
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort
- The sensation that your bowels will not empty completely
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Unexplained weight loss