What is Colon Cancer?

September 12, 2017 Cancer Hub 10341 Views


What is the meaning of Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that occurs when the cells lining the colon turn abnormal and start to grow in an out-of-control manner.

A colon is a tube, approximately 5 to 6 feet long, connecting the small intestine to the rectum. The colon and rectum together are called the large intestine. The undigested food moves towards the rectum and exits the body in the form of stools.

Cancer that begins in the colon region is known as colon cancer, while cancer in the rectum is known as rectal cancer. Cancer affecting either the colon or the rectum is known as colorectal cancer.

In this article, we will be discussing in detail colon cancer.

  • What are the types of Colon Cancer?
  • What are the causes of Colon Cancer?
  • What are the risk factors of Colon Cancer?
  • What are the symptoms of Colon Cancer?
  • How to diagnose Colon Cancer?
  • What is the treatment for Colon Cancer?
  • How to Prevent Colon Cancer?

What are the types of Colon Cancer?

The different types of colon cancer depend on the different types of cancerous cells and where they form. The different types of colon cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinomas: Adenocarcinomas formation takes place within the cells that form mucus in the rectum or the colon.
  • Lymphomas: Lymphomas can either develop in the lymph nodes or the colon first.
  • Sarcomas: They are formed in the soft tissues like the muscles in the colon.
  • Carcinoids: Carcinoid formation starts in the hormone-making cells present within the intestines.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors: These types of tumors are usually non-cancerous (benign) first, and later become cancerous. They are usually formed in the digestive tract, and rarely in the colon.

( Know more about- What is Lymphoma ? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment )

What are the causes of Colon Cancer?

  • The exact cause of colon cancer is still unknown. The researchers are still studying the various possible causes of colon cancer.
  • Colon cancer may be caused by either inherited or acquired genetic mutations. These mutations do not necessarily always develop into colon cancer, but they do increase the chances of developing colon cancer.
  • Certain mutations can lead to the accumulation of abnormal cells in the lining of the colon. This leads to the formation of small, non-cancerous (benign) growths known as polyps. It is important to remove these polyps through surgery. The untreated polyps may become cancerous.

What are the risk factors of Colon Cancer?

There are certain risk factors that increase the chances of colon cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Old age: Although colon cancer can occur at any age, most people having colon cancer are above 50 years of age.
  • History of colon cancer: If a person has already had colon cancer or has a history of non-cancerous colon polyps, there is an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
  • American and African race: Africans and Americans are at an increased risk of having colon cancer.
  • Inflammatory intestinal diseases: Chronic inflammatory conditions of the colon such as Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease affecting the digestive tract lining) and ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease usually seen in the inner lining of the colon and the rectum) can increase the chances of developing colon cancer.
  • Family history: If someone in the immediate family is suffering from colon cancer there is a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Inherited syndromes: Certain gene mutations that pass through various generations of the family increase the chances of colon cancer.
  • High-fat and low-fiber diet: Colon cancer risk is found to be high in people eating a western diet which is low in fiber and high in fat.
  • Diabetes: People who have diabetes have an increased colon cancer risk.
  • Obesity: An obese individual is at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Lack of exercise: People who are inactive are at an increased risk of having colon cancer.
  • Smoking: People who smoke have a higher chance of developing colon cancer.
  • Alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption increases the chances of developing colon cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy done for the treatment of previous cancers increases the risk of colon cancer.

( Know more about- What is Diabetes? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment )

What are the symptoms of Colon Cancer?

The common symptoms of colon cancer are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Change in the consistency of the stools
  • Blood in stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • A feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Weight loss

( Know more about- What is Blood in stool? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments)

How to diagnose Colon Cancer?

  • The doctor first does a physical examination of the patient and notes down the complete medical and family history of the patient.
  • The doctor recommends the following diagnostic tests for colon cancer:
  • Blood tests: Complete blood count and liver function tests are done to get an idea about the cause of colon cancer.
  • Fecal testing: These tests are done to detect the presence of any kind of hidden blood in the stool. This test can be done once every one or two years.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: It is a minimally invasive procedure done to examine the sigmoid colon (last section of the colon) for abnormalities using a flexible tube with a light on one end.
  • Colonoscopy: In this procedure, a long tube with a small camera attached at one end is used to see inside the colon and the rectum to check for the presence of any tumors.
  • Imaging tests (X-rays, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan, ultrasound, angiography): These are performed to obtain a detailed image of the colon.
  • Biopsy: A small portion of the tumor tissue is excised and sent to the laboratory to check its content.

( Know more about- What is Endoscopy? Types, Purpose and Procedure )

What is the treatment for Colon Cancer?

The treatment of colon cancer depends on the cause and severity of the disease. Some of the treatment modalities for colon cancer include:


  • In the early stage of colon cancer, the surgeon may remove the cancerous polyps by surgery. If the polyp is not attached to the walls of the bowel, the result is excellent.
  • If cancer has spread into the bowel walls, the surgeon may remove a part of the colon or rectum and the neighboring lymph nodes. If possible, the surgeon may re-attach the healthy portion of the colon left back to the rectum.
  • The surgeon may perform a colostomy if other types of surgeries are not possible. This is a procedure in which an opening is created in the abdominal wall to remove the waste material. Colostomy can be temporary or permanent.


  • The use of certain drugs to kill cancer cells is called chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy also helps in controlling the growth of the tumors.
  • Chemotherapy is usually performed after surgery to destroy any lingering cancerous cells.
  • Some of the common drugs used for chemotherapy include capecitabine, oxaliplatin, fluorouracil, etc.

Radiation therapy

  • The use of a powerful beam of energy for targeting and destroying the cancer cells before and after surgery is called radiation therapy.
  • Radiation therapy is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

Other medications:

  • Certain drugs can be used to treat colon cancer.
  • These drugs are used in cases of late-stage colon cancer when other forms of treatment have failed and cancer has spread to the other parts of the body.

( Know more about- What is Bladder Cancer? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment? )

How to Prevent Colon Cancer?

The following lifestyle changes may help in the prevention of colon cancer:

  • Avoid eating processed meat, like deli meats and hot dogs
  • Red meat consumption should be limited
  • Low-fat diet
  • Increase in consumption of plant-based food items
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduction in weight in case of obesity
  • Reduction in consumption of alcohol
  • Controlling diabetes, if present
  • Decreasing the level of stress
  • Get regular screening tests for colon cancer done after the age of 50

( Know more about- What is Obesity? Causes, Prevention and Home remedies to reduce weight )

We hope that we could answer all your questions regarding Colon Cancer through this article.

If you want to get more information and treatment of Colon Cancer, you can contact an Oncologist/ Cancer Specialist.

We only aim to provide you with information about Colon Cancer through this article. We do not recommend any medicine or treatment to anyone. Only a qualified doctor can give you good advice and the correct treatment plan.

Login to Health

Login to Health

Our team of writers is dedicated to the healthcare sector. We want our readers to have the best material to understand the health issue, learn about surgeries and procedures, consult the right doctors and finally make the right decision for their health.

Over 1 Million Users Visit Us Monthly

Join our email list to get the exclusive unpublished health content right in your inbox