The colon is a part of the digestive tract where food is processed to rid the body of waste. Food travels down the esophagus to the stomach, and from there to the small intestine, and then on to the large intestine.
The first part of the large intestine, called the colon, absorbs water and nutrients from food and stores waste matter.
The colon consists of five sections: the cecum, the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon, and the sigmoid colon.
The colon (also known as the large intestine or bowel) is situated in the abdomen and forms the last part of the digestive tract.
It is an important organ, carrying out a number of vital functions, including the completion of the digestive process, involving absorption of water-soluble nutrients as well as the synthesis of certain vitamins.
The colon is a major part of the excretory system, responsible for eliminating food and other body wastes, as well as protecting us from infection and disease.
It is structured as one long, continuous hollow tube surrounded by muscles. The colon begins where the small intestine ends and extends down to the anus. The colon measures about 1.5 meters long and 6 centimeters in diameter.
Colorectal cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the colon and/or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestin.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case colon or rectum cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors , which can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.
The cause of colorectal cancer is unknown. However, research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease:
• Age: 50 or older
• Diets high in fat and low in fiber
• Polyps (benign growths) in the colon and rectum (especially due to familial polyposis, an inherited condition)
• Personal history of colorectal cancer
• Family history of colorectal cancer, especially a parent, sibling, or child
• Inflammatory bowel disease: Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
• Other risk factors include: obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, smoking, alcohol intake, nightshift work, and ethnic background
Colorectal cancer often does not have any symptoms, but some symptoms associated with colorectal cancer include:
• A change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, lasting for more than a few days in people over age 50
• Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
• Stools that are narrower than usual
• Abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
• Unexplained weight loss
• Constant fatigue