Aging and Your Risk Of Colon Cancer

Health & Medical Blog

As your body ages, physical changes put you at a higher risk for certain diseases. Colon cancer is one problem seen more often in seniors than in younger adults. But with early detection and treatment, it doesn't have to affect your life. Here is why early detection is so important and the treatments available to keep this disease from interrupting your retirement.

Colon Cancer Screening Avoids Serious Problems

Colon cancer starts out as small growths in the wall of the rectum or lower large intestine. These tissue growths, called polyps, start out benign and cause you no problem. Many remain benign, but a few can become malignant and begin to produce cancer cells in the colon wall. The cells quickly spread to other areas of the colon and then to other organs in your body.

This can happen without your body sending you any symptoms so you know what's going on. Colon screening to look for polyps is a way to keep ahead of this disease and prevent it from becoming a problem. Your doctor will suggest that you begin yearly screenings once you turn 50. The screening usually consists of a colonoscopy, which is a way your doctor can see into the colon and inspect for polyps. Suspicious polyps can then be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous. Because the disease may have no symptoms, the colon screening is your best option for preventing this disease from happening.

When Symptoms Do Occur

Should colon cancer occur before you have a screening, it can produce uncomfortable symptoms as it advances. Some of the symptoms include:

  • constipation or diarrhea
  • bloody stools
  • pain in your abdomen
  • general weakness
  • weight loss

The symptoms appear when the cancer reaches a certain level in your body. By this stage, treatment to get all of the cancerous cells out of your system is difficult. Preventing the cancer from advancing through regular colon screenings is the preferred approach to staying ahead of this disease.

Colon Cancer Treatment Options

Treatment depends on how advanced the colon cancer is in your system. Treatment is much easier when in the pre-cancerous stage versus when you have malignant cells actively reproducing in your body.

The typical treatments available for colon cancer include the following:

  • When polyps are detected and they are still benign, simply removing them from the colon will prevent the cancer from developing. These polyps can often be removed during a colonoscopy.
  • When a polyp begins producing cancer cells, the polyp must be removed with part of the tissue surrounding it. Your doctor may also want you to have targeted radiation treatment on the area around the polyp to catch any cancer cells not removed by surgery.
  • When the cancer cells have spread throughout the colon, part of your large intestine may have to be removed. You may need to have a colonostomy to capture and eliminate waste products from the intestine.
  • If your doctor suspects that cancer cells have spread beyond your colon to other organs, chemotherapy will be recommended to kill these cells before they spread further.

Getting regular colon screenings can prevent the need for these more invasive treatments. As you age, talk with a doctor like Clinical Gastrointestinal Associates, PC about how frequently the screenings must be done to make sure you can continue to live a cancer-free life.


2 October 2015

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