The colon, also known as the large intestine, is part of our digestive system. The colon is responsible for extracting water, as well as certain nutrients and electrolytes, from foods that have already been partially digested. It is one of the parts of the body that is susceptible to cancer. Colon cancer is currently the most common cancer in our country, if we count cases in men and women together. According to data from the Spanish Digestive System Foundation (FEAD), in 2020 the incidence of colon cancer in Spain was over 44,000 new cases, accounting for 9.2% of all cancers diagnosed. If differentiated by sex, it is the second most common tumor in men after prostate tumors and the second most common in women after breast tumors.
The main risk factors of this disease are:
- Age. Most cases of colon cancer are found in people between the ages of 65 and 75. In addition, people between 50 and 65 are considered intermediate risk.
- Eating habits. This type of cancer is often associated with high-fat, low-fiber diets.
- In some cases, colorectal cancer is caused by an inherited genetic condition called Lynch syndrome.
- Medical history. There has been evidence of increased susceptibility to colon cancer if the person has or has had colon or rectal polyps, ulcerative colitis, breast, uterine or ovarian cancer.
- Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are factors that predispose the individual to the development of all types of tumors.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. People with some type of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, have an increased risk of developing this type of cancer.
Although some risk factors are uncontrollable, cure rates are high if detected early, because it is a type of cancer that takes a long time to develop. Early diagnosis is therefore essential. In fact, according to the Spanish Cancer Association (AECC), about 90% of colon cancers could be cured if detected early.
Primary symptoms of colon cancer
The most common signs and symptoms of this type of cancer include:
- Changes in bowel movements (periods of constipation combined with periods of diarrhea)
- Blood in stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramping or pain
- Constant weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
If any of these symptoms are detected, you should see your family doctor as soon as possible for an early diagnosis and for treatment to be as effective as possible. Ask your doctor any questions you may have about colon cancer.