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Colon Cancer

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Updated: July 18, 2007

Please send image use requests to coloncancer.guide@about.com Illustration by Donna Myers © 2007
Definition:

Our bodies are made up of billions of cells that grow, divide, and then die in a predictable manner. Cancer occurs when something goes wrong with this system, causing uncontrolled cell division and growth. Cancer cells lump together and form a mass of extra tissue, also known as a cancerous tumor. When cancer cells are present in the colon, it's referred to as colon cancer.

Since colon cancer can grow for years without causing any symptoms, it's best to get regular colon cancer screenings. But, knowing what to look out for can't hurt. Examples of colon cancer symptoms include thin stools, stomach cramping, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue.

Being age 50 or older is the number one risk factor for colon cancer. Examples of things that researchers believe cause colon cancer include alcohol, smoking, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity.

Determining the colon cancer stage is an important part of choosing an appropriate treatment. In general, the earlier the stage, the easier the cancer is to treat. Surgery is the most common treatment option and is often combined with chemo/radiation to treat late-stage colon cancer.

For more information, please read What is Colon Cancer?

Sources:
  1. Chemotherapy. Adam Healthcare Center. 27 Aug. 2006 [http://adam.about.com/encyclopedia/002324.htm].
  2. Detailed Guide: Colon and Rectum Cancer: How Is Colorectal Cancer Treated? American Cancer Society. 7 Mar. 2006. 27 Aug. 2006 [http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_4x_How_is_colorectal_cancer_treated_10.asp?sitearea=].
  3. Large Bowel Resection Series. Adam Healthcare Center. 27 Aug. 2006 [http://adam.about.com/encyclopedia/100089.htm].
  4. Radiation Therapy. Adam Healthcare Center. 27 Aug. 2006 [http://adam.about.com/encyclopedia/001918.htm].
  5. Treating and Preventing Cancer with Vaccines. National Cancer Institute. 12 Jun. 2006. 27 Aug. 2006 [http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/learning/cancervaccines].
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