Colon carcinoma refers to colorectal cancer. This type of malignancy typically arises from colon polyps. Although these growths are frequently benign, some may develop into colon carcinoma over time. If left untreated, carcinoma of the colon may metastasize to the regional lymph nodes or distant sites. When discovered in the early stages, colon carcinoma can be effectively treated and sometimes cured. Usually signs and symptoms depend upon the location of the lesion, and the presence of metastasis or spread of the tumor.
Generally, local symptoms of colon carcinoma are more likely to present themselves if the lesion is located near the anus. Constipation or diarrhea may occur, as can feelings of incomplete evacuation of stools and rectal pain. In addition, pencil thin stools and spasms may occur. Sometimes, the passage of fresh blood or black, tarry stools may be present, however, these symptoms may occur in the presence of other, less serious conditions such as hemorrhoids.
Sometimes, colon carcinoma can cause chronic occult, or hidden bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract. In these cases, anemia my be present, as manifested by fatigue, pallor, and heart palpitations. Many times, colonic carcinoma leads to decreased appetite and weight loss. Generally, metastatic colon carcinoma, when present, tends to spread to the liver. This occurrence may cause jaundice and pain in the abdomen. If the cancer causes bile duct obstruction, biliary obstruction may occur and cause pale stools.
Typically, risk factors for colon carcinoma include the presence of colon polyps, advancing age, and history of other cancer. In addition, family history, a diet rich in red meat, and inflammatory bowel disease have been implicated in promoting colon cancer. Heavy consumption of alcohol may lead to an increase in the prevalence of colon adenocarcinoma, as can smoking. It appears that lifestyle choices have a great influence on the development of colon carcinoma and therefore, employing a healthy lifestyle may stave off colon cancer.
Certain chemo-preventive agents may prevent colon cancer. These include aspirin, calcium and vitamin D. Although anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, it's benefits may outweigh risks because of the potential for gastrointestinal bleeding. While preventative measures may be effective in reducing risk, early detection is most important. Colonoscopy can detect and remove precancerous polyps before they become malignant. Physicians should educate patients on risk factors, prevention and diagnostic testing as they related to the incidence of carcinoma of the colon.