Uncontrolled cell growth in the colon leads to what is known as colon cancer. Major causes of colon cancer include polyps, genetic traits, habits, diet and other medical factors.
The major types of colon cancer are:
- Primary colorectal lymphomas
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors
- Carcinold tumors
Symptoms of colon cancer are:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Stool consistency change
- Diarrhea or constipation maybe experienced
- Stools maybe narrow
- Bowel movement pain
Diagnosing colon cancer
For a diagnosis full physical examination is carried out along with a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
It involves inserting a long flexible tube with a camera on one end into the rectum for inspecting the colon inside. When polyps are found inside the colon are removed and further examined under a microscope so as to detect any cancerous cells. Through the rectum a liquid containing the element barium is injected to the colon to line the intestine then an X-ray is done of both the colon and the rectum. The gastroenterologist may conduct an endoscopy to rule out cancers in upper parts of the stomach.. Endoscopy is a procedure for examining a person’s digestive tract using an endoscope. The process of endoscopy begins with the patient staying without food or drinks for a number of hours before the procedure. Incase malignancy is found, further tests are conducted to evaluate spread. The best test is a PET CT followed by a CT or an MRI, incase a PET CT isnot available. Cancer markers tests are also carried out to evaluate type of cancer before commencing treatment.
The stage of cancer is determined after diagnosis and this helps in knowing choices available for treatment and it also informs prognoses. The staging method of cancer is called TNM system. T shows how the intestine has been invaded by the cancer cells. N shows the degree to which cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes. M shows whether cancer has spread to other body organs. Colon cancer is also grouped according to TNM classification 0 to IV. 0 Tis, N0, M0 where (Tis) is carcinoma this is when the tumor is in the inner layer of the colon or rectum only. N (Mi) shows cancer that has spread to other organs throughout the body.
Treatment options in the earlier stages include surgical options followed by chemotherapy and at later stages just chemotherapy as a palliative measure.
While the cost of evaluation for colon cancer, may vary between USD 1000-2000, the cost of cancer treatment in India may vary between USD 4000- 9000 depending upon drugs administered and the number of cycles administered.
The best cancer hospitals in India are well equipped with PET CT and have good gastroenterologists, GI surgeons for diagnosis, surgical and medical oncologists for colon cancer treatment.