The human body is as complex as an ocean. Cells are a phenomenon that is constantly changing. Their creation, growth, and development help to organize the various functions of the human body. So what happens if any of these cell processes go out of control by breaking these rules?
Here we are talking about the second most deadly disease in the world after heart attack named cancer, which is also known as Malignant tumour, malignant neoplasm. There are more than 100 types of cancer, which can affect any part of the human body system.
This article deals with one of the major kinds of cancer from these categories by the name of colon cancer (Colorectal Cancer) that affects the human colon or large intestine. It is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. By 2020, there will be approximately 1.8 million new cancer cases and 606,520 cancer deaths reported in the United States itself.
Here in this article, we will mainly focus on how colon cancer affects women, including its symptoms and treatment methods.
A short Introduction to Colon Cancer
The large intestine, an integral part of the digestive system, removes stool by extracting water and nutrients from the food that our body partially digests. Even small changes in the large intestine can affect our body’s digestive system as a whole. Colon cancer or colorectal cancer is the name given to the phenomenon that occurs when the growth of cells in our colon becomes uncontrollable.
This is a growth of polyps in the colon or inner lining of the colon or rectum that later transforms into colon cancer. One thing to note here is that not all polyps have to be cancerous. Some develop into cancer over time but some do not. It can affect people of any age, but it mainly affects older adults.
The main complication of this is that we do not see any noticeable symptoms in the first stage of it. But it is a disease that needs to be diagnosed and start to give the treatment as early as possible. This is because early-stage colon cancer can be treated with surgery without any complications. The method of treatment varies from patient to patient, depending upon the patient’s health and the location, size, and extent of cancer spread
Among the most discussed risk factors for this cancer are a family history of colon cancer, colon polyps, chronic ulcerative colitis, old age, and people of African-American descent. Removal of polyps is one of the best ways to prevent this cancer, which is commonly found in colon polyps. We can prevent it through proper screening. We can prevent colon cancer before it affects and spreads, with a healthy lifestyle incorporated with early diagnosis methods.
Colon cancer and women
“One in every 24 women has a colon infection”
When you look at figures like the one written above, do you think that this is so? Do you think that in a short period of time, it has become one of the most deadly and life-threatening diseases affecting women?
If not, you can find the answer here.
Colon cancer, commonly known as a male disease, is the most deadly cancer in women after breast and lung cancer. This cancer, which is more common in elder men and women, has almost the same symptoms. However, it is relatively difficult for women to recognize the symptoms compared to men. Early diagnosis is not possible because the symptoms of colon cancer in women are misdiagnosed as something else.
When it comes to colon cancer early diagnosis and treatment is essential unless the disease progresses to advanced levels and becomes uncontrollable. The early signs of colon cancer, such as bleeding, abdominal pain, weakness, and fatigue, are often mistaken as menstrual symptoms in women. But those who are well aware of their body can easily distinguish them. This is because menstrual symptoms are cyclical, unlike colon cancer symptoms.
Besides, the misconception that colon cancer is a male disease that only affects men, in general, leads women to ignore the symptoms. But they all forget one thing. Men and women have the same digestive system and organs. Therefore, no one is safe from this. The main villains here are the unhealthy lifestyle, health history of polyps, age increasing, affected with Lynch syndrome and family history of colon cancer. The most important of these is to identify the early symptoms of colon cancer.
Let’s learn some very important warning signs for that.
Screening or diagnostic possibilities
Colon cancer is not a major disease for those who pay close attention to their health. It is a kind of cancer that can be easily cured if detected early by regular screening and other tests. But we must read in addition that it is also a disease that can lead to the death of the patient if the diagnosis is delayed.
Here are some common diagnostic methods,
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
FOBT is a test related to our digestive system, which is also known as immunochemical fecal occult blood test (iFOBT) This is a test performed to detect the presence of blood in the stool. This can detect the presence of polyps in the large intestine or rectum.
The presence of polyps indicates colon cancer.
Sigmoidoscopy is one of the best ways to diagnose colon cancer and other growths. In this way not only find the presence of polyps but also all the problems related to bowel issues can be detected. Its popularity is heightened by the fact that it has fewer side effects and is less invasive than other rests.
When it comes to colon cancer, colonoscopy is the most popular and adequate screening method. On screening or diagnostic examination called the colonoscopy, the doctor can see the inside of the patient’s entire rectum and large intestine. Although it has some limitations, it is known as the best CRC screening and detection tool. A flexible light tube is inserted into the body so that polyps can be detected and biopsied.
Knowing Major signs and symptoms
It is generally said that” symptoms of colon cancer can be no symptoms.” Especially the symptoms of colon cancer in women are generally misleading. Thus, the diagnosis of colon cancer is complicated because the female body is more complex than the male body. They may be mistaken for menstrual symptoms or stomach or gynecologic conditions. In the first stage, there are very few symptoms, and as the disease progresses, more symptoms begin to appear.
Now let us look at the main symptoms listed,
Sudden weight loss
Unexpected weight loss is one of the main symptoms of colon cancer. This can happen for many reasons. The body’s immune system consuming excess energy or cancer cells using too much energy can cause this. Cancer cells disrupt the conversion of food into energy by expelling substances into the body, resulting in weight loss. In addition, the tumor in the large intestine expands in a way that interferes with human bowel habits, leading to weight loss. Hereby, losing up to 10 pounds for no reason within 6 months.
Severe abdominal pain and constipation
These are the most common misdiagnosed symptoms of colon cancer in women. We often confused these symptoms with the period’s symptoms. Actually, these two symptoms are interrelated. Colon cancer badly affects the digestive system, causing constipation and persistent severe abdominal pain. Also, it is a common symptom of cancerous conditions such as hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, some people may experience weight gain.
Fatigue and energy level goes down
In this busy world, fatigue and tiredness are considered as a part of daily life. So, it’s one of another symptoms that is generally ignored and trivialized. Nevertheless, one thing to note here is that if it is just normal fatigue then everything will be fine with rest, but if it is chronic fatigue, we need to pay attention. If we feel weakness and tiredness for no apparent reason, we should undergo screening.
Bleeding in the stool or rectum
Even small changes in the stool are a symptom of many major diseases. If there is a dark or black stool with red spots, it is considered as a major symptom of colon or colorectal cancer. Sometimes this may not be so obvious, but the symptoms worsen as the disease progresses. Bleeding in the stool mainly means bleeding in the large intestine or rectum.
Changed bowel habits
When tumours begin to form in the rectum or large intestine, the first disorder is the digestive system, which we first identify through changed bowel habits. These range from changes in the frequency of bowel movements to severe changes. Colon cancer can also adversely affect overall bowel function. The result is loose, watery stools, diarrhea, or unexplained constipation.
An illusion that the bowel cannot be emptied.
It can disrupt our work and other daily activities but is one of the most obvious symptoms of colon cancer. Here we have the illusion or feeling of being unable to empty the large bowel of stool and tend to go to the toilet often. If the tumour first forms in the rectum, the patient may experience this uncomfortable condition.
How to cope with colon cancer?
In this age where medical science has advanced a lot, there is no shortage of treatments, and the skill of a good therapist is to select the most suitable treatment for the patient from a variety of methods and complete it successfully. The case of colon cancer is not different from this.
Before deciding the treatment, the specialist medical team examines location, number of lessons, and size in detail. The diagnosis is made after the diagnosis of the disease and its present stage. There are four major types of treatment available:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
Let’s look in detail,
There are many types of surgery available for colon cancer, but not all of them can be performed in everyone. It is essential to have the advice and cooperation of a good oncologist to find and implement what suits each patient.
While the early stage mainly involves polypectomy, laparoscopic surgery and endoscopic mucosal resection, the advanced stage involves complex surgeries such as Lymph node removal, Partial colectomy, Surgery to create a way to waste to leave your body. Once it reaches the advanced stage then the goal of the doctors is only to alleviate the symptoms as much as possible and make the patient feel better.
Now let’s get acquainted with some modern surgical techniques,
Palliative surgery: It can be considered as a treatment or specialized medical care commonly used in the late stages of colon cancer. It is generally applied to those who have reached the advanced stage or to those who have reached a stage where recovery is impossible. Here the cancer specialists mainly intend to help a patient with colon cancer by giving temporary relief from the severe complications or troubles that may result from the cancer symptoms. Thus the surgeon removes the bleeding and blockage in the patient’s colon and relieves the patient from severe pain and other complications.
Endoscopy: This is an excellent way to effectively remove small amounts of cancer cells or localized cancers. This is made possible by a flexible, very thin tube with a camera and light attached to the ends. This tube is inserted into the body and removes cancerous cells or tissues. It is also a medical imaging technique in which the device is inserted directly into the organ. It acts as a screening device and a surgical device at the same time. This screens the inside of the colon or large intense and removes the polyps.
Laparoscopic surgery (Minimally invasive surgery): This is another great way to get rid of polyps. Here the cancer cells that remain after colonoscopy are searched and destroyed. In this modern technology, the surgeon makes a lot of small incisions in the wall of the abdomen and removes the polyp through it. The camera-attached device passes through those wounds and monitors the inside of your colon through a video monitor. It is also used to collect lymph node samples from cancer cells.
Colostomy ( Surgery to create a way for waste to leave your body): In the case of ostomy, it is used as both a temporary or permanent solution. An opening is created in the abdominal wall so that the faeces can be collected and removed into a bag. This temporary or permanent opening made in it is called a stoma. This method is generally used when healthy parts of the colon or rectum cannot be reconnected, or as a temporary measure to heal the patient’s large intestine or rectum after surgery. The vast majority of these patients receive a temporary ostomy but about 10% of patients have a permanent ostomy after surgery.
Partial colectomy: Partial colectomy is a method used to treat advanced-stage cancer. This removes parts of your cancerous colon and the margins of normal tissue attached to it that prevents cancer cells from spreading. About a quarter to a third of the colon is usually removed, depending on the stage, size, and location of cancer. It also removes nearby lymph nodes for cancer screening.
In Chemotherapy, drugs that destroy or stop the growth of cancer cells are injected into the patient’s body in certain amounts. It inhibits the division and growth of cancer cells and the formation of more cells. These powerful chemicals are essential to control the disease when cancer reaches the lymph nodes. Its function is to inhibit DNA or proteins, thus fighting against cancer cells and destroying them.
Sometimes doctors recommend giving it before surgery. This shrinks the tumour or tumours and reduces the complication during surgery. It is also given to remove tumours left after surgery. After all, chemotherapy reduces the risk of recurrence of cancer.
The therapist schedules certain cycles to be given for a specific period on a chemotherapy schedule. In chemotherapy, the patient receives either a single drug or a combination of different types of medication.
In this, the patient can make an effective choice by meeting with an oncologist and learning about the different types of chemotherapy options and its side effects. The side effects of chemotherapy vary depending upon the patient’s health status and the agents who give the treatment. Its main side effects include hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, anemia, loss of energy, and low resistance to infections, vomiting, and diarrhoea, etc.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays, electron beams, or chemical agents to specifically target and destroy cancer cells. It is more commonly used to treat colorectal cancer than colon cancer. Like chemotherapy, several radiation treatments must be given on a particular schedule.
The services of a dedicated radiation oncologist should be ensured to make this work effectively. There are different types of treatments available depending on the patient and the condition, including External-beam radiation therapy, Stereotactic radiation therapy, Intraoperative radiation therapy, and Brachytherapy.
Unlike other cancer treatments, it is not free from side effects. It is therefore imperative to discuss with the oncologist and come up with a clear idea about this. The main side effects are fatigue, mild skin reactions, stomach upset, and diarrhea. It is comforting to know that most of the side effects are temporary and will disappear as soon as the treatment is over.
Stereotactic radiation therapy: Stereotactic radiation therapy is an excellent way to treat colon cancer that has spread to the lungs and liver. This external-beam radiation therapy provides a clear and direct radiation dose to treat cancer in a specific or small area. This state-of-the-art technology in medical science protects parts of the liver and lungs that are unnecessarily lost during surgery.
External-beam radiation therapy: It is one of the most widely used radiation treatments for cancer. This technology destroys tumours using high energy rays. The X-rays on these machines focus on the cancerous areas. This radiation is usually given in hospitals or the office of a specialist doctor 5 days a week for several weeks.
Although it is one of the types of chemotherapy, it has become more effective and has fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy in combination with standard chemotherapy. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, it focuses on destroying the tumour without causing much damage to healthy cells.
As the name Targeted Therapy suggests, this modern treatment targets specific aspects of cancer cells and works only on them. The major targeted therapies are bevacizumab, cetuximab, panitumumab, regorafenib (stivarga), ramusirumab (siramsa), and civ-aflibercept (saltrop), and so on.
These targeted therapies work against cell proliferation, differentiation, and migration in cancer cells and neutralize them. It mainly works by targeting specific genes for cancer, protein or tissue environment. It is both beneficial and effective for both older and younger patients alike.
Prevent colon cancer throughout your life
There are a lot of things we should follow and Will have to make certain changes in our lifestyle to maintain the health of our colon or large intestine and never get cancer out there. About 75% of these colon cancers are caused by our wrong lifestyle or bad habits, it is reassuring to know that we can prevent this disease by making small changes in such harmful habits and starting some new healthy habits.
So, always keep this in mind, “Prevention is better than cure”
Here are some tips to help you reduce the risk of colon cancer and protect your colon health,
Get proper screening from time to time.
While this may not prevent colon cancer, it can prevent it from becoming complicated and thus causing death. There are several screening options available for this purpose, discuss with your doctor what is best for you. The main thing we need to mention here is the screening of colonoscopy. This detects the presence of polyps and destroys them early, preventing them from developing into colon cancer. Experts say this is an essential procedure, especially for those over the age of 50 and those with a family history of colon cancer.
Control body weight
It is essential to control body weight by making healthy changes in diet and physical activity. This is because uncontrolled weight gain increases the risk of colon cancer. After smoking, being overweight or obesity is one of the most common causes of cancer. It is an undeniable fact that obesity is a major cause of not only colon cancer but also many other serious cancers and other major diseases.
It is said that smoking is the leading cause of colon cancer. So be careful not to smoke, in case you are a chain smoker talk to your doctor and find a solution. Studies show that long-term smokers are more likely to die of cancer than non-smokers are. In addition, it can lead to many serious health problems such as heart disease and 14 different types of cancers.
Make exercise a part of your life.
A person who is not physically active is more likely to develop a variety of serious health issues. A physically fit person is less likely to develop serious illnesses such as colon cancer. After consulting a doctor, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, which is essential for the overall health.
Avoid or moderate alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is a habit that is harmful to our overall health. So don’t get into the habit of drinking as much as you can, and if you are a person who is addicted to alcohol anymore, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. For men, it is limited to two drinks a day while for women it is one drink. Otherwise, it may make you a colon cancer patient. It also adversely affects the functioning of various organs in the body such as the heart, kidney, liver, brain, and pancreas.
Make a balanced diet as a way of life.
No one should have any doubt that our wrong food habits are the main cause of most of our illnesses. Therefore, it is imperative to try to include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your diet by avoiding fast foods and soft drinks as much as possible. It also eases your digestive system and reduces the risk of colon cancer.
It is estimated that by 2020, approximately 147,950 people will be diagnosed with CRC and that colon cancer will cause 53,200 deaths.
Sounds shocking, doesn’t it?
Colon cancer does not get as much attention as some renowned cancers get that is why it is so neglected. It is arguably the most misunderstood disease. Some people believe that it is a male disease and in the opinion of others, it does not affect young people…the list goes on and on.
This is a serious disease that can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, country, social status, etc. Although the symptoms and mortality are all the same in both women and men, the diagnosis is relatively more difficult in women than in men due to its complicated symptoms.
When it comes to women, they often neglect their symptoms in various confusions mentioned in this article the diagnosis of women is relatively delayed. The delayed diagnosis of colon cancer is one of the leading causes of death, the women are also at the forefront in that list.
Medical science has many limitations but it has progressed a lot. Ensure that the numerous possibilities of medical science are being utilized for early diagnosis or screening because you must use them to ensure a cancer-free colon or large intensity. With a little care and attention, we can save precious lives from the grip of cancer.