Understanding colorectal (colon) cancer

Our gut has been getting a lot of attention in recent years. It’s a powerful, complicated system that can easily get out of whack. Nutrition, stress and lifestyle habits all help play an important role in our gut health. Speaking of important roles, our colon (large intestine) is a part of the digestive system that helps absorb water and minerals and eliminate waste. The colon is an essential part of our system. But, if cells grow abnormally in the colon or rectum, colon polyps may form. And, depending on the type of polyp, it might turn into colorectal cancer (colon cancer) over time (usually many years).1, 2

What are the types of colon cancer?

Most colon cancers are called adenocarcinomas. These tumors start in the cells that make mucus to lubricate the inside of the colon and rectum. Other types of colon cancers exist but are rare. They include:3

  • Carcinoid tumors
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors
  • Lymphomas
  • Sarcomas

Who should I see if I'm concerned about colon cancer?

If you think you might have symptoms of colon cancer, or you’re concerned about your risk level, schedule a visit with your primary care provider (the doctor or provider you might see for your yearly physical). Bring a list of your symptoms, family history and any questions you want answered. If your doctor thinks you may have signs of colon cancer, he or she may order one or more of those tests we mentioned above. Or, you might be referred a gastroenterologist. (Your body could be telling you that your gut just needs a little TLC.) If your test results show signs of cancer, you’ll likely be referred to an oncologist to discuss further tests and treatment options.11

Footnotes

  1. Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer cancer.org, 2021.
  2. Picture of the Colon webmd.com, 2020.
  3. What is Colorectal Cancer? cancer.org, 2021.
  4. Colorectal Cancer Screening cancer.org, 2021.
  5. What Should I Know About Screening? cdc.gov, 2021.
  6. Colorectal Screening Tests cancer.org, 2021.
  7. Colorectal Cancer Signs and Symptoms cancer.org, 2021.
  8. Colorectal Cancer Statistics cancer.org, 2021.
  9. Colon cancer- Symptoms and causes cancer.org, 2021.
  10. Colon cancer- Diagnosis and treatment cancer.org, 2021.
  11. Colon cancer- Preparing for your appointment cancer.org, 2021.