Colon Cancer Defined
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they're often referred to as colorectal cancers. Colon cancer and cancer of the rectum usually begin as a small polyp. While most colon polyps are benign, some do become cancerous.
* A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool for more than a couple of weeks
* Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
* Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
* A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty ...view middle of the document...
The three primary treatment options are: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Surgery for early-stage colon cancer
If your cancer is small, localized in a polyp and in a very early stage, your doctor may be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy.
Some larger polyps may be removed using laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, your surgeon performs the operation through several small incisions in your abdominal wall, inserting instruments with attached cameras that display your colon on a video monitor.
Surgery for invasive colon cancer
If your colon cancer has grown into or through your colon, your surgeon may recommend a colectomy to remove the part of your colon that contains the cancer. Nearby lymph nodes are usually also removed and tested for cancer. Your surgeon is often able to reconnect the healthy portions of your colon or rectum. But when that's not possible, for instance if the cancer is at the outlet of your rectum, you may need to have a permanent or temporary colostomy. This involves creating an opening in the wall of your abdomen from a portion of the remaining bowel for the elimination of body waste into a special bag. Sometimes the colostomy is only temporary, allowing your colon or rectum time to heal after surgery. In some cases, however, the colostomy may be permanent.
Surgery for advanced cancer
If your cancer is very advanced or your overall health is very poor, your surgeon may recommend an operation to relieve a blockage of your colon or other conditions in order to improve your symptoms. This type of surgery is referred to as palliative surgery. The goal of palliative surgery isn't to cure your cancer, but to relieve signs and symptoms, such as bleeding and pain.
In specific cases where the cancer has spread only to the liver and if your overall health is otherwise good, your doctor may recommend...