Cancer is one of the most feared diseases . In Spain, in 2015, 220,000 new cases of this condition were diagnosed, according to data from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM). The future does not appear to be promising in this regard, as the United Nations (UN) estimates that by 2020 there will be 246,713 new cases of cancer in Spain, of which 97,715 will be in women and 148,998 in men.

In this article we will talk about one of the most common types of cancer: colon cancer .

What is cancer

Cells are indispensable components for our organism. Our body is made up of millions of trillions of these cells that have different functions. These units group together to form the tissues and organs of our body. In this way, they cover our vital needs, helping, among other things, in nutrition, breathing or body structure.

When cells multiply uncontrollably and invade adjacent organs or tissues cancer occurs, i.e. normal cells become cancerous

Types of cancer

Although the terms cancer and tumor are often confused as if they refer to the same thing, in reality this is not the case: cancer is a more serious tumor. Tumours can be either benign or malignant.

In the first case, the cells multiply uncontrollably but do not spread to other parts of the body. This type of tumor is less life-threatening to the person who has it, although it can sometimes become a more serious tumor. Malignant tumour or cancer occurs when uncontrolled cells spread to other areas of the body, which is called metastasis .

What is Colon Cancer

Colon cancer (or colorectal cancer) is a malignant tumor that occurs because a mucous membrane of the colon contained in an existing polyp evolves from different causes into cancer. According to the cancer organization AECC, there are between 28,500 and 33,800 cases of this type of tumor each year in this country. Of these, 20,000 new cases are men and 14,000 are women.

The same institution explains that in Spain the survival after 5 years of suffering from this disease is currently above the average of European countries, with 64%.

The importance of early diagnosis

An early diagnosis is essential if we want to reach a proper cure for this disease , but there are several risk factors that can lead to colon cancer. The risk factors include:

  • Being overweight : being overweight or obese increases the risk of colon cancer in both men and women.
  • Physical inactivity : having an active life decreases the risk of suffering from this condition. Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy heart and body.
  • Diet : diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products have been linked to a lower risk of this type of cancer. Reducing consumption of red meat and processed foods may also reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Alcohol : several studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer when a person consumes alcohol on a regular basis, especially for men.
  • Personal history : personal or family history of cancer is a risk factor for colon cancer, so it is advisable to take preventive measures like the ones above.

Warning signs of colon cancer

But what symptoms can indicate that a person has colon cancer? In the following lines you will find the answer to this question.

1. Blood in stool

One of the most common symptoms of colon cancer is bleeding in the stool . The blood may appear reddish or darker in color. While the former may be due to the tumour being in the descending colon, the darker colour is usually due to the area affected by the cancer being in the ascending colon.

2. Diagnosis of anemia

According to Dr. Randall Holcombe, chief of the cancer unit at Mount Sinai Health Center in New York, “a diagnosis of anemia may be the first sign that a person is bleeding internally, even if they have not been able to see any symptoms of bleeding.

For women, anemia is less likely to be followed by further check-ups and testing due to menstruation, however, for men, anemia may be a clear indication that it is lost from somewhere . In fact, it is common for internal bleeding not to be detected until blood appears in the stool.

3. Excessive tiredness

A side effect of slow internal bleeding and anemia is shortness of breath . The cause of this may be that the cancer cells use up the body’s energy supply or they affect the way the body produces the energy it gets from food.

4, Feeling of being swollen

As Dr. Randall Holcombe, head of the medical department at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, explains, when the colon is affected, the person feels that it is swollen and may even cramp .

Obviously there are many factors that can cause this symptomatology, however, if the symptoms persist, the expert recommends consulting a doctor as soon as possible.

5. Pain in the abdomen

In addition, Holcombe explains: “Colon cancer causes constant pain on the right side of the abdomen. This often occurs in later stages of the disease, especially if the liver is also affected.

6. Variation in depositions

The person with colon cancer may have had a normal bowel rhythm, but there has been a change in his or her bowel movements. For example, diarrhea or constipation appears . It can also happen that periods of constipation are combined with periods of diarrhoea.

7. Narrower stools

There may not be any bleeding in the stool when you go to the bathroom, but the fact that the stools are different in shape from the original and thinner is a sign of concern. As Dr. Holcombe says, “this could indicate a restriction in the colon caused by the polyps.”

8. Appearance and jaundice

Jaundice is common in liver metastases , and refers to the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Jaundice is frequent in colon cancer.