Colon Cancer Definition
Colon Cancer is a malignant tumor that forms on the tissues of the colon, which is the inner wall of the large intestine. Most of the time, colon cancer develops from polyps, which are small growths of abnormal tissue. Colon cancer may also referred to as colorectal cancer if the rectum is affected.
Colon Cancer Stages
If you’re diagnosed with colon cancer, doctors will run a series of tests to determine whether it has spread, and if so, how far it has spread. The cancer is then categorized in a process called “staging.” The stage of the colon cancer describes the seriousness of the cancer, how much of it is in the body, and helps doctors determine how best to treat it.
There are five colon cancer stages, some of which are broken down into subcategories. The earliest of the colon cancer stages is Stage 0. If the cancer has grown and spread, that number grows all the way up to Stage IV. While every cancer is unique to the individual, similar stages are often treated in similar ways by doctors. In this way, colon cancer stages act as an outline for patient prognosis and treatment.
Determining the Colon Cancer Stages – The TNM System
Doctors often use the TNM System to determine a patient’s colon cancer stages. Information from tests is categorized into three key areas: Tumor, Node, and Metastasis. These are broken down as follows:
● T – This refers to the size, or “extent” of the tumor. In other words, how far has the colon cancer grown in the wall of the large intestine or rectum? Most colorectal cancers start in the inner lining of the colon, which is also called the mucosa. The muscularis mucosa is a thin muscle layer that is also part of the mucosa.
The submucosa may also be affected. This is fibrous tissue found beneath the submucosa. If large enough, the tumor may also affect the muscularis propria, which is the thick muscle layer, and the subserosa and serosa, which are the outermost layers of the colon’s connective tissue.
● N – This refers to nearby lymph nodes. If more lymph nodes have been invaded by colon cancer cells, the staging will be higher.
● M – This refers to Metastasis. If the cancer has spread to distant sites within the body, including organs and far away lymph nodes, the staging level will increase.
When determining colon cancer stage grouping, numbers will follow the letter designations, and each helps to define the nature of that particular cancer. Cancer staging is a complex process, but your doctor will help you understand the many variable that help to determine your colon cancer stage.
Breaking Down the Colon Cancer Stages
What follows is a brief description of each of the colon cancer stages.
Stage 0 Colon Cancer – When colon cancer is in its earliest stages, it is referred to as Stage 0. This means that the colorectal tumor has not grown beyond the mucosa of the colon or rectum. Stage 0 colon cancer may also be called intramucosal carcinoma or carcinoma.
Stage I Colon Cancer – If the cancer grows through the muscularis mucosa and into the submucosa or muscularis propria, but does not spread to any distant sites in the body or lymph nodes, then it’s considered Stage I.
Stage IIA Colon Cancer – Stage II Colon Cancer is broken down into three subcategories. In this first subcategory, the cancer has grown to the outermost layers of the rectum or colon but has not penetrated it. The cancer has also not spread to any nearby organs, lymph nodes, or distant sites within the patient’s body.
Stage IIB Colon Cancer – If the cancer penetrates the wall of the rectum or colon, but has not spread to nearby tissues, organs, lymph nodes, or distant sites within the body, it is considered Stage IIB.
Stage IIC Colon Cancer – If the cancer penetrates the wall of the rectum or colon, attaching itself to other nearby tissues and/or organs, but has not spread to lymph nodes or distant sites within the body, it is considered Stage IIC.
Stage IIIA Colon Cancer – Stage III colon cancer is broken down into three subcategories. In the first, Stage IIIA, the cancer has grown into the submucosa by way of the mucosa, and has spread into 4 to 6 nearby lymph nodes, but not any distant sites within the body.
Stage IIIB Colon Cancer – There are three scenarios that can lead to a IIIB colon cancer staging. 1) If the cancer has grown into the visceral peritoneum or the outermost layers of the colon, and spread into 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes or areas of fat near lymph nodes, but has not reached any distant sites or organs. 2) If the cancer has grown into the outermost layers of the rectum or colon or into the mucularis propria, and into 4 to 6 nearby lymph nodes, but not into any distant sites. 3) The cancer has grown into the muscularis propria or through the mucosa into the submucosa, and has spread to 7 or more nearby lymph nodes but not into any distant sites.
Stage IIIC Colon Cancer – Three scenarios can lead to a Stage IIIB colon cancer staging. 1) The cancer has grown through the wall of the rectum or colon, 4 to 6 nearby lymph nodes have been invaded, but the cancer has not spread to nearby organs or distant sites. 2) The cancer has grown through the visceral peritoneum or the outermost layers of the rectum or colon, and has spread into 7 or more nearby lymph nodes, but not into any distant sites. 3) The cancer has penetrated the wall of the rectum or colon and has grown into nearby organs and/or tissues, and has spread into at least one nearby lymph node or area of fat near the lymph node, but not into any distant sites.
Stage IVA Colon Cancer – The cancer may or may not have penetrated the wall of the rectum or colon or spread to any nearby lymph nodes, but it has spread to at least one distant organ or distant lymph nodes, but not into distant parts of the peritoneum.
Stage IVB Colon Cancer – The cancer may or may not have penetrated the wall of the rectum or colon or spread to any nearby lymph nodes, but it has spread to more than one distant organ or distant lymph nodes, but not into distant parts of the peritoneum.
Stage IVC Colon Cancer – The cancer may or may not have penetrated the wall of the rectum or colon or spread to any nearby lymph nodes or distant organs, but it has spread to distant parts of the peritoneum.
Colon Cancer Statistics
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, and it’s estimated that there will be 97,220 cases of colon cancer and 43,030 cases of rectal cancer in 2018. Some other noteworthy colon statistics are as follows:
● About 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women will develop colorectal cancer at some point in their life
● The death rate for colorectal cancer has been dropping for several decades for both men and women. Better screening and improved treatments are cited as primary factors for this development
● There are currently more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors living in the Unites States
● It is estimated that more than 50,000 people will die of colorectal cancer in 2018
● More people are being screened for colorectal cancer than ever before – 67.3% in 2016
Colon Cancer Symptoms
There are a number of symptoms that could be caused by colon cancer, but most of them can be caused by something totally unrelated to cancer. However, if any of the following symptoms persist, it makes sense to visit your doctor to ensure your health is sound.
● Changes in bowel habits that last for more than 3 days, including constipation, diarrhea, or narrowing of the stool
● Rectal bleeding
● Feeling as though you need to have a bowel movement, but not finding relief when doing so
● Blood in the stool or dark stool
● Abdominal pain or cramping
● Fatigue and/or weakness
● Unintended loss of weight
Keep in mind that these symptoms are likely to appear only after colon cancer has grown or spread. Finding any cancer in its earliest stage offers the best chance for successful treatment, so it’s vital that you seek testing for colon cancer before any symptoms appear.
Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention
Bottom line: Colon cancer screening can save your life. Symptoms of colon cancer rarely appear before the disease is in advanced stages, which is why the American Cancer Society recommends routine colorectal screenings for most men and women over the age of 50. If you have familial or genetic risk factors for colon cancer, your doctor may recommend screenings at a younger age.
If colon cancer is detected before it’s spread to other parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 90%, but these rates lower as the cancer spreads. There are six colon cancer screening methods that doctors use to detect the disease. These are as follows:
● Stool DNA Testing – This non-invasive screening method tests stool samples for gene changes that are sometimes found in colon cancer cells. The process is easier for the patient, because they take the kit home, collect their own stool sample, and mail it to a lab for testing. There is no special diet, laxatives, or enemas required to conduct the test. If the test shows possible pre-cancer or cancer, a colonoscopy will be necessary to confirm the findings. Patients with an average risk for colon cancer with no personal history of polyps may be able to take this test.
● Colonoscopy – This test is conducted with a flexible lighted tube with a small camera attached, so that the colon and rectum can be thoroughly examined. If any polyps are found while the test is being conducted, it may be possible to remove them at that time. Some patients are required to follow a special diet for up to 48 hours before the colonoscopy, and laxatives and enemas are also commonly used to clean out the colon. Patients are often sedated during a colonoscopy, and if the test finds nothing wrong another test likely won’t be needed for 10 years.
● Double-contrast Barium Enema – This x-ray test uses a liquid that’s inserted into the rectum to show details in the colon wall that will discover polyps or suspicious areas. Sedation is not required, but if anything questionable is found a colonoscopy will be necessary. Usually another test won’t be necessary for 5 years if nothing is found.
● Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – This test is similar to a colonoscopy, but only looks at part of the rectum and colon. Polyps can be removed during the test, or a colonoscopy may ultimately be needed. Most people require no sedation during this test, and it’s recommended to repeat this procedure every 5 years.
● CT Colonography – This test may also be called a Virtual Colonoscopy. It is a scan of the rectum and colon that produces state-of-the-art cross sectional images that can be studied for cancer or polyps. Sedation is not required, but if any issues are found, a follow up colonoscopy will be be required. Doctors recommend repeating this test every five years.
● Guaiac-based Fecal Occult Blood Test and Fecal Immunochemical Test – These tests seek out tiny amounts of blood in stool that may indicate polyps or cancer. This is a take-home kit. If any positive results are found, a follow up colonoscopy will be required. Doctors recommend doing this test every year because positive results are often the result of non-cancerous conditions like hemorrhoids.
To determine which screening method is best for you, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your options. Regular screening offers the best chance to detect colon cancer at its earliest stage. If you’re 50 years old or older, it’s time to have that talk with your doctor, especially if you have any history of colorectal cancer in your family.
Prevention – The Best Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer usually begins as polyps on the rectum or colon. The best way to prevent cancer is to have these abnormal growths removed before they turn into cancer, which is why screening is so important, especially for men and women over 50.
Many people wonder if their diet can help prevent colon cancer. While there is a lot of research currently being conducted to answer this question, there is much disagreement on the topic between various medical professionals. Still, doctors do recommend a diet high in fruits, vegetable, and whole grains, and low in animal fats. While this may reduce the risk of colon cancer, it’s proven to reduce the risk of many other conditions and diseases including diabetes and heart disease.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force concluded that low-doses of aspirin may help prevent colorectal cancer in some adults. Obviously, you should talk to your doctor before engaging in any preventative treatment protocols.
Some studies indicate that other healthy lifestyle choices can reduce a person’s risk of colon cancer. These include:
● Increased physical activity (exercise)
● Avoiding tobacco (smoking)
● Limiting alcohol consumption to one drink per day
Obviously, a healthy lifestyle has numerous health benefits that go beyond colon cancer prevention. Always remember that the best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at 50 years of age. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you should talk to a doctor about starting your screenings at an earlier age.
Alternative Treatment Used for Colon Cancer
Mainstream colon cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. These treatments are usually based upon the stage of the cancer, but other factors may be considered. Any treatments that fall outside of these mainstream preferences are referred to as “alternative.”
Patients may seek out alternative treatment used for colon cancer for a variety of reasons. Some site the fact that the cure rates for orthodox medicine in regards to colon cancer are practically zero.
Cure rates for colon cancer remain low because chemotherapy and surgery can cause damage to the colon. In turn, this may affect the body’s ability to digest food and process nutrients, which makes it difficult for non-cancerous cells to get the nutrition they need to thrive.
Some forms of alternative treatment used for colon cancer focus on a healthy immune system. Some say that the body’s natural defenses are the most effective defense against colorectal cancer. A weakened immune system will have a harder time fighting off cancer, plus the cancer itself may further weaken the immune system. Subsequently, if treatment protocols like chemotherapy fail to rid the body of cancer, the immune system is further weakened and may make other treatments dangerous or lethal.
Diet plays a key role in a healthy immune system, and studies are being conducted to ascertain whether diet also plays a role in colon cancer prevention. Iron, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, E, C, D, and B6 are thought to help bolster the immune system, and should be a part of any healthy diet.
As with mainstream medicine, alternative treatments used for colon cancer often focus on prevention. Some claim that promoting an “anti-cancer intestinal environment” can help fight colon cancer naturally. These claims stem from the belief that colon cancer is “food-related,” in that everything a person eats must travel over the digestive tract’s lining. If the food a person eats is contaminated with toxins, chemicals, or hormones, it may directly affect their health.
For this reason, alternative preventative diets often focus on the following:
● Eating less red meat
● Eating foods rich in antioxidants
● Using olive oil
● Eating selenium-rich foods
● Eat food rich in Omega 3 oils
● Eating garlic and certain other spices
One of the primary ways that alternative treatments for colon cancer differ from that of orthodox medicine is by treating the patient instead of the disease. Every person with colon cancer has their own unique form of the disease. Orthodox medicine’s treatment protocols attempt to treat the disease based on the cancer’s stage. However, many alternative treatments utilize comprehensive testing in an effort to discern the best way to treat that particular cancer.
Oftentimes the focus of these treatments is restoring the body’s natural ability to fight cancer cells. Since cancer cells develop in every human, the idea is that restoration of the body’s immune system can entirely eradicate cancer from the body before it has a chance to become tumorous.
Because this is not a one-size-fits-all approach to colon cancer treatment, significant time is spent with each individual patient to identify their own unique approach to dealing with their cancer. Avoiding treatment protocols like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy prevents the immune system from becoming further compromised.
Every colon cancer patient has the right to choose their own treatment protocols, so it makes sense to be fully informed about traditional and alternative treatments. Some patients may choose one over the other, and others may even decide to pursue both.
Financial considerations often come into play for patients seeking treatment for colon cancer. This is yet another reason why a patient may choose alternative colon cancer treatment over orthodox protocols. Costs associated with mainstream treatments are exorbitant. Even patients with quality health insurance are often driven to declare bankruptcy when faced with medical bills for colon cancer treatments.
This appeal to alternative treatments in relation to finances stems from the fact that doctors in this field are often willing to develop a treatment plan that takes their personal money situation into consideration. Some doctors claim that they can perform testing at a fraction of mainstream medicine’s cost.
Vitamins and Supplements Used in the Treatment of Colon Cancer
Alternative treatments for colon cancer often focus on bolstering the immune system. Some doctors utilize treatment protocols that incorporate vitamins and supplements into the patient’s diet to help the immune system naturally fight cancer cells. Some of the top vitamins used to help the immune system include:
● Vitamin C – Vitamin C has long been used to help the immune system fight off cold and flu viruses, but it also helps to regenerate and repair tissues in the body and aids the absorption of iron. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and ascorbic acid that helps the body maintain healthy tissue while promoting healing.
● Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is not only necessary for key metabolic processes, it also supports the functioning of the adrenal gland. It also makes antibodies, which are needed in order for the body to fight disease.
● Vitamin E – This powerful antioxidant helps the body naturally fight off infection.
● Vitamin D – Vitamin D helps the body in numerous ways by promoting immune function and modulating cell growth while reducing inflammation. Also called the “sunshine vitamin” since the body gets most of the vitamin from the sun, it also helps the body absorb calcium. For people living in northern climates, routine vitamin D testing should be a part of every doctor visit. It’s difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone, and deficiencies have been linked to some forms of cancer.
● Vitamin A – Vitamin A creates a barrier against infections in the body and can also aid immune system function.
● Iron – Oxygen is carried to cells via the bloodstream with the help of iron.
● Folate – Studies show that a lack of folate in the body can make a person more susceptible to cancer. Folate is important in the development of red blood cells and works in tandem with vitamin B6..
● Selenium – The body sometimes overacts in its response to aggressive forms of cancer, but selenium can slow that reaction
● Zinc – Zinc is also capable of slowing immune system response, and can also help control inflammation.
Natural Remedies that May Help Colon Cancer
There are countless natural remedies that may help with colon cancer that can easily be found on the internet. Since colon cancer occurs in the final section of the digestive tract, it makes sense to seek out natural remedies that can help bolster the body’s natural defenses and immune system. What follows is a list of some of the more common natural remedies that may help with colon cancer. At the very least, a healthy diet that incorporates these natural remedies will support better overall health.
● Ginseng – There are a number of therapeutic uses for ginseng, but its high concentration of antioxidants may inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and may even kill cancerous cells.
● Green Tea – Because green tea decreases the presence of free radicals in the body, it may lower the risk of cancer, and even prevent its spreading.
● Exercise – There are countless benefits to routine exercise, not the least of which is simply feeling better and preventing obesity. Exercise also stimulates the immune system by improving blood flow and boosting the metabolism. By further reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, the risk of developing diseases like cancer may also be reduced.
● Salmon – Not only is salmon delicious, it’s also jam packed with healthy Omega-3 oils, which is an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of cancer and health problems that may contribute to cancer, like obesity. Mackerel, tuna, and sardines are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Remember to eat wild salmon and avoid farmed salmon to get the full benefit of this dietary choice.
● Flaxseed Oil – This is yet another good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil can help with inflammation, which may help prevent the spread of cancer.
● Blueberries – One of the best antioxidants available, blueberries have a positive effect on the immune system and can reduce cellular mutation and eliminate free radicals.
● Spinach – This nutrient-rich leafy green is packed with vitamins and has a high content of fiber, which makes it a popular natural remedy that may help colon cancer. Maintaining regular bowel movements is far easier when consuming the right amount of fiber, which avoids symptoms that can exacerbate colon cancer like hemorrhoids and constipation.
● Quitting Smoking – Smoking causes all sorts of health problems, and it’s recognized as a leading cause of cancer. Smoking has been proven to increase the speed at which polyps develop, but much of the damage can be reversed simply by quitting the habit.
● Olive Oil – There are some studies that indicate olive oil is an effective way to prevent cancer from forming in the body. It also increases nutrient uptake in the intestines, which also helps in and of itself.
● Turmeric – The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which is full of beneficial antioxidants.
Remember that these natural remedies that may help colon cancer are no substitute for routine checkups at the appropriate age for your colon cancer risk level. Colon cancer is a deadly disease that affects tens of thousands of Americans every year. The sad truth is that many deaths resulting from colon cancer could have been prevented if the patient had only maintained a recommended checkup schedule.
Home remedies should never be used as a replacement for cancer treatment, but rather to promote a healthy lifestyle with a focus on prevention and a healthy immune system. By receiving regular checkups, particularly colonoscopies after the age of 50, you have the best chance of finding colon cancer in its earliest stages and beating the disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer, schedule a free consultation at the Causenta Cancer Treatment Center today, and find out how we can help.
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