What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer, like most cancers, is symptomless in its early stages, which makes having regular screening tests such as colonoscopies essential, especially if you have a family or medical history of colon cancer. Some of the common symptoms include rectal bleeding, dark or bloody stools, a change in bowel habits, cramping or abdominal pain, unintended weight loss, and weakness and fatigue. It is important to remember that many of the symptoms of colon cancer are also caused by other non-cancerous medical conditions.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is the growth of abnormal cells on or in the walls of the colon. Many colon cancers begin as polyps that grow in the colon that develop into cancer over time. However, not all polyps become cancerous. There are a variety of cancers that grow in the colon but adenocarcinoma is the most common, making up 95% of colorectal cancers. This kind of cancer typically starts in the glands that produce the mucus that lines the colon. Other cancers including carcinoid tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors, lymphomas, and sarcomas can also develop in the colon.
What Happens During Colon Cancer Screening?
The doctors at Gastroenterology of Westchester use a number of different screenings to test for colon cancer. All adults are recommended to have regular screenings from the age of 50 although anyone with a family history of colon cancer should have screenings starting from a younger age and more frequently. A common test for colon cancer is a colonoscopy, where a camera is gently inserted into the colon to allow the doctor to see the inside of the colon and take biopsies if possible. The doctor may also use a fecal sample to test for the presence of blood and other proteins that could indicate cancer. A stool sample may also be tested for specific DNA that indicates cancerous growths.