(Cancer of the Colon)
DefinitionColon cancer is the growth of cancer in the large intestine. The large intestine, or colon, absorbs water and nutrients from foods. After, the colon passes the solid waste to the rectum for storage, before it is eliminated from the body.
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CausesCancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Risk FactorsBeing over 50 years old increases your chance of colon cancer. Other factors that may increase your chance of colon cancer include:
- Hereditary conditions such as familial adenomatous polyposis
- Personal history of colon or rectal cancer, or polyps
- Family history of colon or rectal cancer, especially a parent, sibling, or child
- History of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Diets high in meat, and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Heavy alcohol intake
- Physical inactivity
SymptomsIn most cases, there are no symptoms with colon cancer. When symptoms do appear, they may include:
- A change in bowel habits
- Blood in the stool that is either bright red or black and tarry
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- General abdominal discomfort, such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
- Constant feeling of fatigue or tiredness
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