Colon Cancer (Colorectal cancer)


Cancer that forms in the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) or the rectum. African American men have less than a 5-year survival rate for colon cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white men, and should therefore be screened for the disease at 40 (10 years earlier than their White counterparts).

Alternative Names

Colorectal cancer; Cancer – colon; Rectal cancer; Cancer – rectum; Adenocarcinoma – colon; Colon – adenocarcinoma


There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.

You have a higher risk for colon cancer if you:
•    Are older than 60
•    Are African American of eastern European descent
•    Eat a diet high in red or processed meats
•    Have cancer elsewhere in the body
•    Have colorectal polyps
•    Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
•    Have a family history of colon cancer
•    Have a personal history of breast cancer

Certain genetic syndromes also increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Two of the most common are:
•    Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
•    Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome

What you eat may play a role in your risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer may be associated with a high-fat, low-fiber diet and red meat. However, some studies have found that the risk does not drop if you switch to a high-fiber diet, so this link is not yet clear.
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are other risk factors for colorectal cancer.


When colorectal cancer first develops, there may be no symptoms at all. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that people should watch for.

Common signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

•    A change in the frequency of bowel movements
•    Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
•    Either bright red or very dark blood in the stool
•    Stools that are narrower than usual
•    General abdominal discomfort such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps
•    Either bright red or very dark blood in the stool
•    Stools that are narrower than usual
•    General abdominal discomfort such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps
•    Weight loss with no known reason
•    Constant tiredness
•    Vomiting

Exams and Tests

With proper screening, colon cancer can be detected before symptoms develop – when it is most curable. Since African Americans suffer higher mortality rates from the disease, they should start being screened at age 40 (10 years earlier than their White counterparts).

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and press on your belly area. The physical exam rarely shows any problems, although the doctor may feel a lump (mass) in the abdomen. A rectal exam may reveal a mass in patients with rectal cancer, but not colon cancer.

A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) may detect small amounts of blood in the stool, which could suggest colon cancer. However, this test is often negative in patients with colon cancer. For this reason, a FOBT must be done along with colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. It is also important to note that a positive FOBT doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.

Imaging tests to screen for and potentially diagnose colorectal cancer include:
•    Colonoscopy
•    Sigmoidoscopy

Blood tests that may be done include:
•    Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia
•    Liver function tests


Treatments are available for all patients who have colon cancer. The choice of treatment depends on the size, location, and stage of the cancer and on the patient’s general health. Doctors may suggest several treatments or combinations of treatments.

The three standard treatments for colon cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Surgery, however, is the most common treatment for all stages of colon cancer. Surgery is an operation to remove the cancer. A doctor may remove the cancer using several types of surgery.

Treatments include:
•    Colectomy
•    Colostomy
•    Adjuvant Chemotherapy
•    Chemotherapy
•    Radiation Therapy

Possible Complications

    •    Blockage of the colon
•    Cancer returning in the colon
•    Cancer spreading to other organs or tissues (metastasis)
•    Development of a second primary colorectal cancer

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:
•    Black, tar-like stools
•    Blood during a bowel movement
•    Change in bowel habits


The death rate for colon cancer has dropped in the last 15 years. This may be due to increased awareness and screening by colonoscopy. Colon cancer can almost always be caught by colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. Almost all men and women age 50 and older should have a colon cancer screening. Patients at risk may need earlier screening.

Colon cancer screening can often find polyps before they become cancerous. Removing these polyps may prevent colon cancer.

Changing your diet and lifestyle is important. Some evidence suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce your risk of colon cancer.

Some studies have reported that NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib) may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. However, these medicines can increase your risk for bleeding and heart problems. Most expert organizations do not recommend that most people take these medicines to prevent colon cancer. Talk to your health care provider about this issue.

Natural Remedies

( — This cancer is particularly common in Western societies. Studies show that diet and lifestyle changes may reduce your risk. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:

What You Need To Know:

  • Eat risk-reducing foods
    Load up on healthy portions of fiber, tomato products, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), garlic, and onions, and eat less mea
  • Work in a workout
    Maintain a regular exercise routine throughout your life
  • Try selenium supplementation
    Taking 200 mcg a day of this essential trace mineral can offer protection against a variety of cancers
  • Go for green tea
    Drink several cups of green tea a day to benefit from the protective polyphenols found in tea leaves
  • Try vitamin C
    If you have colon cancer, take 10 grams per day of vitamin C to possibly slow disease progression
  • Mix in melatonin
    If you have colon cancer, take 20 mg of this hormone at night under medical supervision to possibly help improve prognosis and quality of life

These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full colon cancer article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.