Almost all colon cancers start in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. When doctors talk about colorectal cancer, this is usually what they are talking about. 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 high risk of colon cancer if you:
- Are older than 60
- Are African American of eastern European descent
- Eat a a lot of red or processed meats
- Have colorectal polyps
- Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Have a family history of colon cancer
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
Treatment depends on many things, including stage of the cancer. Treatments may include:
- Surgery (most often a colectomy) to remove cancer cells
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
- Radiation therapy to destroy cancerous tissue
Stage 0 colon cancer may be treated by removing the cancer cells. This is done using colonoscopy. For stages I, II, and III cancer, more extensive surgery is needed to remove the part of the colon that is cancerous. This surgery is called colon resection.
Almost all patients with stage III colon cancer should receive chemotherapy after surgery for 6 – 8 months. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy. The drug 5-fluorouracil can increase the chance of a cure in certain patients
You may receive just one type, or a combination of these drugs. There is some debate as to whether patients with stage II colon cancer should receive chemotherapy after surgery. You should discuss this with your oncologist.
Radiation therapy is sometimes used in patients with colon cancer. It is usually used in combination with chemotherapy for patients with stage III rectal cancer.
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