The intestinal (colon) cancer is fairly common, about 1 in 15, 7% of the population, develops it in life and it is a fatal disease in some cases. It affects the large bowel, but with early diagnosis the chances of recovery are high.
The colon occupies the last section of the intestine. The food that is swallowed passes first through the esophagus, a cylindrical tube that connects the mouth to the stomach, then the food passes to the stomach where it is digested. At this point the material proceeds to the small intestine, where nutrients are digested and partially absorbed. Fibers and digested food finally reach the colon, where the remaining nutrients are absorbed and the stools are formed.
The feces are then pushed towards the latter part of the colon, the sigmoid and the rectum before being expelled. The lymphatic tissue and lymph nodes drain the excess fluid in the bloodstream. Lymph nodes, then help to fight infections and cancer of the colon before they spread to the rest of the body.
The colon is made up of several parts:
- ascending colon
- transverse colon
- descending colon
- sigmoid colon
- rectum and anus
The symptoms of intestinal cancer are:
- presence of blood, light red or dark, in the stools;
- alteration of bowel activity, constipation or diarrhea, without any cause for more than six weeks;
- unexplained weight loss;
- localized pain in the abdomen or in the anus;
- feeling of incomplete emptying after bowel evacuation.
Sometimes even a sense of fatigue can be a symptom of disease. This happens in cases where the cancer causes bleeding, thus inducing a condition of anemia, which, in turn, can cause a sensation of breathlessness. In some cases the tumor can cause blockage or obstruction of the intestine, manifested by nausea and vomiting, constipation, pain localized in the abdomen and a feeling of fullness.
Although these symptoms may be caused by other medical conditions it is very important that you go to see your doctor for a check. Tumors of the colon and rectum are more common in people older than 50 years, but are rarer in younger people. For this reason, the symptoms can be indicative of other disorders for example: irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis.
If intestinal disorders do not improve within a few weeks or even worsen, you must consult a specialist, who will submit to all inquiries it deems most appropriate to find the cause.