Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Colon Cancer

Submitted on March 27, 2012

A cancer in the large intestines, colon cancer can destroy the digestive system by damaging the intestines that are an integral part of this system. A related cancer is rectal cancer, which occurs in the rectum, an organ very close to the large intestines. When a person has both colon cancer and rectal cancer, it is often known as colorectal cancer. Colon cancer almost always begins as a small benign growth in the colon. These growths are known as adenomatous polyps and are simply clumps of abnormal tissue growth that may quickly become malignant. These polyps grow vigorously and may soon become life threatening. Usually, when the polyps are slow, there are no specific colon cancer symptoms that may give any indication of disease. However, as the polyps grow, they may begin to show symptoms. Since in their initial stages, the polyps do not show any symptoms, most doctors recommend regular screening tests so that they can be identified in the early stages. When these abnormal growths are found in the early stages and treatment is given for them, the condition is more likely to get better.

Tests Recommended

Diagnosis of colon cancer is performed with the help of specifically designed colon cancer tests. There are both blood tests for identifying cancer markers, and imaging tests to look for malignant polyps in the colon. Some of the most common medical tests used for diagnosing colon cancer include blood tests and endoscopy performed using a scope. This kind of physical examinations is most commonly used to look for polyps in the colon and is one of the most used tests for colorectal polyps.

Contrast dyes are used for imaging tests so that your doctor can take a look inside your colon and rectum to check for polyps or lesions. A barium enema may be given to you for this purpose. Some doctors also prescribe a CT scan of the lower digestive tract to get a clearer picture of the large intestine and the rectum. Depending on the results of the initial screening test, you may be asked to get further testing performed.


Colon cancer causes range from heredity to environmental factors. For a lot of people, it is not clear why colon cancer really occurs. Polyps are formed when the structural of the colon cells is altered. Usually, healthy cells grow and divide in a typical manner, but when they do not, these abnormal skin growths or polyps are formed. In most cases, the growth becomes abnormal and gets out of control because of which eventually, the cancer is caused.

The most common cause of colon cancer is a poor diet high in chemicals that may contribute to the formation of structurally abnormal colon cells. These precancerous growths may turn into lesions and eventually turn into colon cancer. Ulcerative colitis, which causes lesions in the walls of the colon, may also be a cause of colon cancer. Other than the colon polyps, genetics play a vital role in the occurrence of colon cancer. Some people inherit gene mutations that are linked to a genetic predisposition to colon cancer. Though this inherited gene mutation does not make cancer inevitable, it increases the risk of developing colon cancer eventually. This rare genetic disorder is known as familial adenomatous polyposis.


Colon cancer symptoms are usually seen when the cancer is already at a relatively advanced stage. Most people experience slight abdominal pain, specifically in the lower part of the abdomen. There are slight changes in the bowel movements as well. You may experience sudden diarrhea followed by bouts of constipation. There may be a change in the consistency of your stools followed by blood in the stools. You may also experience persistent gas, cramping in the lower abdomen, and frequent pain. You may also keep feeling that your bowel is not completely empty. Apart from this, there is also persistent weakness, fatigue, and an unexplained weight loss. The symptoms are likely to progress slowly, and they vary from one person to another. The symptoms largely depend on the location and the size of the polyps. If you experience bleeding from your rectum and observe blood in your stools, make an appointment with your doctor and have the condition thoroughly checked up. You will be given a screening test and then get further testing, if required.


Early stage colon cancer has the simplest colon cancer treatment. At the early stage, the non-cancerous polyps in the colon membranes can be removed surgically. However, a surgery may not be of much use once these polyps turn into cancerous lesions. A partial colectomy can be performed to remove colon cancer lesions. Blockages in the colon may be removed through surgery at later stages of the condition. Apart from surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used for cancer treatment. Complementary and alternative therapies can also be used to bring relief from the symptoms. There are clinical trials for discovering new and improved methods of treating colon cancer, but most of the targeted therapies have not completely shown positive results.