Cancer of the Colon remains the most common cancer affecting men and women. More than 120,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States.
While the cause of colon cancer is not yet known, experts agree that there is a relationship between benign colon polyps and cancer. Polyps are either flat or grape-like collections of slightly abnormal colon tissue. When polyps first appear in the colon they are small and usually cause no symptoms. As they enlarge they may cause either hidden (occult ) blood to appear in the stool or may bleed, causing bright red blood to appear on or in the stool. When polyps grow to an inch or more in diameter the chances of degenerating into a cancer increase. Cancers not only bleed but can cause pain, weight loss and intestinal blockage.
Polyps can usually be diagnosed and treated non-surgically when they are small and before they degenerate into cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends that people over fifty years of age undergo yearly testing for occult blood in their stool. Every three years a flexible Sigmoidoscopy is recommended. People with a family history of cancer or with a tendency to develop polyps may require more frequent examinations and Colonoscopy . The treatment for colon cancer usually involves removing the portion of the intestine that is diseased. Operations are usually performed through incisions but may sometimes be accomplished by laparoscopic techniques. Blood tests are usually performed and a CAT scan is frequently obtained before surgery. Preparation for surgery is accomplished on the day prior to operation and involves cleansing the colon with laxatives and enemas and taking oral antibiotics to help prevent surgical infections. Intestinal continuity can almost always be reestablished and colostomy is rarely needed. Advanced stage cancers are sometimes treated with chemotherapy after surgery.