Colon cancer

What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer, or colorectal cancer, is cancer that starts in the large intestine, also known as the colon, or rectum. The rectum is the last few inches of the large intestine.  This type of cancer is usually more common in middle-aged adults. A highly preventable disease, this cancer often kills because people are too embarrassed to get checked. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Jordan.

What causes colon cancer?
No exact cause of colon cancer has been identified yet but.  Several factors may increase the risk of developing it:
• Diet high in red meat and other processed meats
• Presences of polyps – Polyps are growths that form in the large intestine, usually in people over 50 years of age. Over time, if these polyps are not removed they may become cancerous and metastasize (spread) to other areas in the body.
• Family history of colorectal cancer
• Personal history of cancer

Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that a person will definitely get colon cancer.

What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
Colon cancer, especially in its early stages, may not present any symptoms. This is why screening tests are effective in finding polyps and detecting colorectal cancer early. Early detection can save your life. If you are over 50 years old, we strongly recommend that you take regular tests to screen for colon cancer at KHCC’s Early Detection Unit

The most common symptoms of colon cancer are:
• Having diarrhea or constipation
• Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
• Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
• Finding your stools are narrower than usual
• Frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
• Losing weight for no known reason
• Feeling very tired all the time
• Having nausea or vomiting

Source: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/colon-and-rectal/page6

How is colon cancer diagnosed?
Physicians use the following tests to screen for colon cancer at KHCC:
• Fecal occult blood tests to detect any blood in the stool
• Digital rectal exams
• Flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine the colon and the rectum

For patients known or suspected to have colon cancer, a variety of diagnostic techniques are used to accurately detect and stage colorectal cancer including:
• Barium enema (a special x-ray of the intestine)
• Colonoscopy to study the tumor accurately
• MRI and or endorectal ultrasound for rectal cancer
• CT scans of the chest, abdomen and pelvis to detect any spread of the cancer
• CEA (Carcino-embryonic antigen) is an important blood test that helps as a marker of the disease. Elevated levels should drop with effective chemotherapy.

How is colon cancer treated at KHCC?
The treating physician will present the case to the MDC panel who will determine the right treatment for the patient depending on how much the cancer has spread throughout the body.

Treatments for colon cancer include: surgical procedures, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, monoclonal therapy, and after-care treatments. As a general rule, surgery is the first line of treatment. In many cases, chemotherapy helps in decreasing the chance of recurrence. However, for patients who have late-stage colon cancer which has spread, surgery is usually ineffective, so physicians may have to resort to palliative measures.

Physicians
At KHCC, colon cancer patients receive top quality care through a multidisciplinary team of specialists highly experienced in treating cancer of the colon and rectum.

Supportive Care
The gastrointestinal multidisciplinary clinic works in close cooperation with other departments at KHCC so that colon cancer patients receive the most comprehensive care possible. Supportive care services at KHCC include:
• For patients who have to have temporary or permanent colostomies, a stoma team is on hand to counsel them and show them how to use colostomy pouches.