Colon cancer often begins as small polyps, or adenomatous cells, in the large intestine. The large intestine, also called the colon, is the last part of the digestive tract and follows the small intestine. Most polyps are benign or premalignant, but if undetected, some can become cancerous over time. Colon cancer can often be prevented through regular screening tests, including colonoscopy, and healthy changes in diet and lifestyle.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer
Although colon cancer rarely shows any symptoms during its early stages, there are warning signs:
- Change in bowel habits
- Blood in the stool
- Recurring stomach discomfort such as gas, cramping or pain
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Factors that may increase the risk of colon cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- High-fat, low-fiber diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps
The risk of colon cancer also increases with age; 90 percent of patients who develop colon cancer are 50 years of age or older.