Colon cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the colon. The colon is part of the body’s digestive system. The digestive system removes and processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body.

Colorectal cancer is considered hereditary or inherited when several generations of a family have colorectal cancer. The two most common inherited colorectal cancer syndromes are hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposi (FAP). The children of people who carry these genes have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease-causing gene.

HNPCC is the most common form of hereditary colon cancer and accounts for about 3% of all colorectal cancer diagnoses each year. People with HNPCC often have at least three family members and two generations with colorectal cancer, and cancer develops before age 50.

FAP is a rare condition characterized by the presence of more than hundreds or even thousands of benign polyps, or growths in the large intestine and upper respiratory tract. It is thought to be present in about 1% of all people diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. The polyps occur early in life, with 95% of people with FAP developing polyps by age 35, and are often detected in patients in their teens, with 50% developing polyps by age 15. If the colon is not surgically removed, there is almost a 100% chance that some of the polyps will develop into cancer, usually by age 40.

Signs & Symptoms

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by colon cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Feeling very tired
  • Vomiting

Treatment

Your OHC doctor will help you determine the best care plan for you. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is the most common treatment for all stages of colon cancer.
  • Radiofrequency ablation is the use of a special probe with tiny electrodes that kill cancer cells.
  • Cryosurgery is a treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
  • Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
  • Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.
  • Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or biologic therapy.