Colon Cancer

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is a malignancy that begins in the colon or large intestine. Most colon cancers begin as benign polyps. These are either flat or knob-like growths on the lining of the large intestine. Occasionally, the growths produce symptoms such as bleeding, constipation or blood in the stool. But often, the cells produce no symptoms at all, so people may not know that they have them. While some polyps remain benign (non-cancerous), some may become malignant (cancerous) over time. Because of this, physicians choose immediately to remove polyps that are found during a colonoscopy.


A colon polyp is a small mass of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. These lumps look like tiny mushrooms but can grow to the size of golf balls. Most colon polyps are harmless. However, as they progress in size the colon polyps can develop into colon cancer, which is often fatal when found in later stages. Early detection and diagnosis are key in getting the best treatment for this health issue.

What Causes polyps?

Many factors play into the cause of polyps. As with many diseases, family history contributes to the risk of developing polyps as well as increased risk of colon cancer. Age is one of the most important factors in the risk of developing colon polyps. Almost 90% of patients diagnosed with colon polyps are 50 years or older. Lifestyle choices contribute to the cause or growth of polyps. Activities such as smoking, the regular consumption of a high fat diet, sugary drinks and foods also contribute to the development of polyps, the excessive consumption of alcohol places a person at high risk of developing polyps. Lack of exercises is a factor that contributes to several issues that can cause colon polyps. The lack of movement stimulates the growth of colon polyps. The lack of physical activities can cause the body to produce more cancerous cells in the digestive tract which increases the risk of colon cancer. The lack of exercise also contributes to obesity which is one of the major contributing factors to colon polyps.

Colon Cancer vs. Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer begins in the colon or the rectum. Colorectal cancers are also referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common. In order to fully understand Colorectal and Colon Cancer you first must understand the normal structure and function of the colon and rectum. The large intestine is made up of the colon and rectum which is the large bowel. This is part of the digestive system, also called the gastrointestinal (GI) system. Most of the large intestine is made up of the colon, a muscular tube about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. The sections of the colon are named by which way the food is traveling through them. 

The first section is called the ascending colon, the second section is called the transverse colon and it stretches across the body from the right to the left side. The third section is called the descending colon because it flows down on the left side. The final section is called the sigmoid colon because of its shape. The sigmoid colon joins the rectum and connects to the anus.

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