Colon cancer is believed to be one of the common types of cancer affecting people. As the name suggests, here, the point of origin of the cancer is the colon or the large intestine. Though colon cancer can affect anyone, people with unhealthy lifestyle (sedentary) and habits (excess smoking and consumption of alcohol), obesity, certain medical conditions like diabetes, or exposed to radiations (radiation therapy) are at a greater risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer may also be hereditary.
Colon cancer usually proceeds through five stages, stage 0 (zero), stage I, II, III and IV.
- In stage 0, cancer remains in situ, (it remains confined within the innermost layer of the colon).
- In stage I, cancer slowly starts spreading to the other layers (second and third) of the inner walls of the colon.
- In stage II, cancer spreads further to the muscular walls of the colon (the lymph nodes, are, however, still not affected by this condition).
- In stage III, cancer spreads outside the colon, affecting one or more lymph nodes.
- Stage IV is more severe and metastatic. Here cancer has spread to and affected vital organs like the liver and the lungs.
Many of the symptoms do not appear at the initial stages. As a result, colon cancer mostly gets detected at a later (often metastatic) stage. Thus, a person should be alert. The initial symptoms, no matter how trivial, should be taken seriously. There is no harm in seeking medical help. It will only help you in the long run.
The following symptoms are often the initial or first signs of something as big as colon cancer:
- Unexplained poor appetite followed by sudden and rapid weight loss. Losing weight at an alarming rate without sweating it out needs thorough investigation. More than often, colon cancer interferes with the digestion process in a person. A person is not able to eat well. There is a feeling of being full (irrespective of how much you eat) all the time.
- Constipation, gas or (and) diarrhea. Often overlooked and mistaken for common bowel disorder, these are some of the initial symptoms of colon cancer. The symptoms may be an outcome of polyps (abnormal tissue growths that can take place in any organs. These polyps are mostly benign in nature) or malignant tumors in the colon. Seek medical help if the conditions persist for more than a week. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.
- A person feels exhausted, sleepy and weak all the time. The symptom may be an outcome of iron deficiency and anemia. Colon cancer can cause injury to the digestive tract. There may be bleeding followed by blood loss and hence the associated symptoms.
- Mild to severe abdominal pain. The abdomen also appears tender than usual (in the case of metastatic tumor).
- Stomach upset accompanied by pain, nausea, vomiting, cramps and at times, indigestion (an outcome of intestinal obstruction and inflammation).
- There may be blood while passing stool.
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