Colon / Colorectal Cancer
The function of the colon (large intestine) and rectum is to absorb nutrients and water and store stool until it is excreted. It is the last section of the digestive tract. Cancer that starts in the lining of the rectum or colon is called colorectal cancer. It can spread into the wall of the colon / rectum and in more advanced cases it passes through the colon / rectum and invades surrounding tissue.
The majority of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas which start in the mucous-producing glands of the colon / rectum. Colorectal cancer will often start as a polyp which forms on the colon/rectal wall. Sometimes polyps will turn into cancer. Removing polyps can eliminate the risk of cancer developing.
Causes & Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
Most colorectal cancers begin as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called a polyp. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over the course of several years, but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of changing into cancer depends on the kind of polyp. The two main types of polyps are:
- Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): These polyps sometimes change into cancer. Because of this, adenomas are called a pre-cancerous condition.
- Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps: These polyps are more common, but in general they are not pre-cancerous.
Dysplasia, another pre-cancerous condition, is an area in a polyp or in the lining of the colon or rectum where the cells look abnormal (but not like true cancer cells).
If cancer forms in a polyp, it can eventually begin to grow into the wall of the colon or rectum.
Colorectal cancer in the earlier stages may not express any symptoms. Because many of the symptoms of colorectal cancer are the same as other conditions it is important to see your physician to rule out other things.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
• blood in the stool
• bleeding from the rectum
• diarrhea and / or constipation
• stool that is thin or more narrow than usual
• feeling that you cannot empty your bowels completely
• gas / bloating / discomfort
• weight loss
• feeling tired
• nausea and/or loss of appetite
• frequent UTIs (urinary tract infection)
• swollen lymph nodes
• pain in abdomen or buttocks
Many of the symptoms of colon cancer can also be caused by something that isn’t cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. In most cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, go to the doctor to be treated, if needed:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
- Rectal bleeding
- Dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Who Gets Colon Cancer
A person with an average risk of colorectal cancer has about a 5 percent chance of developing colorectal cancer. Often, the cause of colorectal cancer is not known. However, these factors may raise a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer:
Known risk factors for colorectal cancer includes:
• Family history
• Personal history (if you've had colorectal cancer in the past)
• Polyps in the colon or rectum
• lack of exercise
• Diet high in red meat
• Diet high in processed meat
• Diet low in fiber
• Inflammatory bowel disease (ie: Crohn's disease or colitis)
• History of breast, ovarian or uterine cancer
Prognosis if You Have Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer is more common in men than women and among those of African-American descent. The number of new cases of colon and rectum cancer was 41 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2009-2013 cases, according to the National Cancer Institute's SEER Stat Fact Sheets.
For colorectal cancer, death rates increase with age. Colon and rectum cancer are the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The number of deaths was 15.1 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2009-2013 deaths.
The percent of colon and rectum cancer deaths is highest among people aged 75-84.
The 5-year relative survival rate for colon cancer:
- Stage I — 92 percent
- Stage II — 87 percent
- Stage III — 89 percent
- Stage IV — 11 percent
Conventional medicine’s main types of treatment for colon cancer include:
- Surgery — including lymphadenectomy or colectomy
How to Prevent Colon Cancer
People with an average risk of colon cancer can consider screening beginning at age 50. But people with an increased risk, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, should consider screening sooner.
You can take steps to reduce your risk of colon cancer by making changes in your everyday life:
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Stop smoking
- Exercise most days of the week
- Maintain a healthy weight
Immune System Health
A healthy immune system remains your body's best defense. Not only is a weak immune system a major reason patients have cancer — and cancer itself can further weaken the immune system.
Beta glucans help regulate the immune system, making it more efficient. In addition, beta glucans stimulate white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumors or viruses and release chemicals to destroy it.
Beta Glucan has been approved in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan as an immunoadjuvant therapy for cancer. In fact, helping with cancer is just the beginning with Beta Glucan. There have thousands of studies showing the product can protect against infections, lower your cholesterol, lower blood sugar, reduce stress, increase your antibody production, heal wounds, help radiation burns, overcome mercury-induced immunosuppression (like Thimerosal, used as a preservative in vaccines), help with diabetes, and even naturally prevent metastasis (or the spreading of your cancer).
Harvard Medical School suggests following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy:
- Don't smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Control your blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
More Information: Building the Immune System
Your diet plays a role in a healthy immune system. The top vitamins your immune system needs to perform include:
- Vitamin C — helps to repair and regenerate tissues and aids in the absorption of iron
- Vitamin E — a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection
- Vitamin B6 — supports adrenal function and is necessary for key metabolic processes
- Vitamin A — aids immune function and helps provide a barrier against infections
- Vitamin D — modulates cell growth, promotes neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation
- Folate — key in development of red blood cells (a lack of Folate can make the body susceptible to cancer)
- Iron — helps your body carry oxygen to cells
- Selenium — slows the body's overactive responses to certain aggressive forms of cancer
- Zinc — slows the immune response and control inflammation in your body
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK