Categorized | Cancer

What is Colon Cancer

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer or bowel cancer, may not receive as much attention from the media as breast or lung cancer, but is one of the top three deadly cancers in the UK. Around 35,000 people get diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and around half of them die. However, it is one of the most treatable cancers if it is diagnosed early, which shows how important it is to know about bowel cancer and its symptoms. There is a 40 to 50 per cent rate of recovery, usually after surgery. Men and women are equally likely to develop bowel cancer. It is more likely to occur in people over 40. The risk is very high in people over 65 and increases with age. It is relatively rare in individuals younger than 20.

The bowel is the long muscular tube that starts at the lower part of the stomach and ends at the anus. The digestive system consists of the small intestine, a narrow passage which absorbs the nutrients from food, and the large intestine, also called the colon, which is the last part of the digestion process. It absorbs water and coverts waste to faeces. At the end of the large intestine is the rectum, which connects the large bowel to the anus. The possibility of cancer developing in the small intestine is extremely rare and most cases cancerous cells form in the large intestine.

Bowel cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is the development of mutated, uncontrollable, malignant cells in the large intestine (colon) or rectum. Usually the affected cells are the ones in the lining of the large bowel or sometimes rectum. At first, the cells form a polyp or lump, which may or may not become cancerous. Only a very small part of all existing polyps progresses and leads to cancer.

Usually, it takes a very long time (around 10 years) for the lump to grow enough to form a tumour and reach deeper layers of the large intestine lining. At this stage, symptoms start occurring, such as bleeding from the back passage and diarrhoea. If the cancer is not diagnosed and removed, it develops further, spreading to other internal organs. After this has happened, it is generally very difficult or impossible to cure the cancer.

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