Surgeons know that the vast majority of cases of colon cancer occur in individuals over the age of 50. In fact, statistics suggest that over 90 percent of colon cancer cases occur in those over 50, and about 60 percent of colon cancer cases occur in those over 70. With this in mind, seniors need to know about colon cancer and the surgery it may require.

Seniors should be aware that colon cancer doesn’t always present symptoms. In fact, in about half of colon cancer cases, there are no warning signs at all, and many seniors will experience the same mild discomfort they would expect to feel when having a bowel movement or experiencing constipation. This can make it difficult for seniors themselves to identify colon cancer without a screening.

Who Is At Risk for Colon Cancer?

Screening for colon cancer typically begins at age 50, but earlier screening for those with risk factors could prevent colon cancer surgery altogether. The first factor to consider is the family’s history of the disease. Those with family members with colon cancer should receive regular screenings.

Additionally, patients with a higher than average occurrence of issues like inflammatory bowel syndrome or Crohn’s could also be at higher risk for cancer. Next, you should know that individuals who are obese, who smoke, and who drink often are at a higher likelihood as well.

Diet can also play a role in one’s likelihood of contracting colon cancer. Individuals who eat a lot of processed meats, red meats, and deep-fried foods could also be at risk. You can reduce your risk of colon cancer by getting regular exercise and maintaining a weight deemed healthy by your doctor. You can also increase the fiber in your diet for a healthier colon.

Finally, colon cancer is more prevalent among those with Type II diabetes. If you are at risk for colon cancer, your doctor may recommend that you talk with a nutritionist about diet changes to prevent worsening diabetes.

Fortunately, colon cancer is a preventable cancer with detection. Of course, many people do not want to undergo invasive screenings, but they may be more likely to do it when they know that surgery is on the table otherwise. When seniors understand the risk factors for colon cancer and are screened regularly, it can be easier to identify colon cancer early on when treatment works best.

What Are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer has several symptoms you may spot. If you notice these symptoms, speak with them about your doctor. Treatment options, including surgery, are available.

Symptoms include sudden changes in your bowel movement activity. Perhaps you suddenly have diarrhea each day, or maybe you are suffering from a sudden bout of constipation that doesn’t go away with changes to your diet. You might even see a change in your need to defecate.

Colon cancer symptoms also include bloody stools or bleeding in the seat of your underpants. Look for dark red staining to your stools or stomach cramping that preludes bowel movements.

Other colon cancer symptoms include unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, or weight loss. Colon cancer can impact other parts of your body too. You might notice that you have a fever or night sweats. You may also begin to feel pain in your side, back, or stomach area too.

If colon cancer is left untreated and spreads through the body it can affect other organs like the liver and lungs.

Diagnosing Colon Cancer

Your doctor will be able to make an official diagnosis with a colonoscopy and/or sigmoidoscopy, in which they use small cameras that can fit into your colon to look for any irregularities or signs of early-stage colon cancer. Another option is the CT scan, which uses X-rays to create pictures of your colon.

If colon cancer is caught early on, surgery can be used as a treatment option. Surgery helps prevent colon cancer from spreading throughout the body and causing more serious illness or death.

Early detection of colon cancer through screening could save your life by identifying the disease before symptoms become too severe. It’s critical you receive regular screenings if colon cancer runs in your family.

Colon Cancer Surgery Types

There are three main types of colon cancer surgeries that doctors will use based upon the specific diagnosis: colectomy, colon resection, and proctocolectomy.

A colectomy is a surgery that removes part of your colon entirely. This might be the best option if you have colon cancer in one specific area or even throughout most of your colon.

Additionally, doctors may use colon gland sparing during this type of surgery to ensure that healthy colon glands are not removed. This is a colon cancer surgery that your doctor might use to limit the amount of colon affected by this type of procedure.

A colon resection, on the other hand, removes part or all of your colon depending upon where in your colon you have been diagnosed with cancer. During this procedure, doctors will remove as much colon cancer as they can without harming the healthy colon glands.

A proctocolectomy is a surgery that removes your colon and rectum entirely, meaning you will no longer be able to defecate in the seat of your pants. This type of colon cancer surgery might take place if doctors have found tumors throughout both parts of the colon.

What Do Doctors Consider Before Treatment?

Seniors are a vulnerable group, so doctors must assess a patient’s fitness for treatment before considering surgery as a treatment option. For this reason, colon cancer treatment is essentially a multidisciplinary procedure. The doctor will also consider whether the patient could endure other treatment methods, like chemotherapy.

How Does Colon Cancer Surgery Work?

Surgery is often the most effective method of treating colon cancers when it is in the first two stages. If you go through surgery, you might not need chemotherapy or radiation. In this surgery, the doctor may remove the cancer, any surrounding tissue, or even part of the colon itself.

With laparoscopic surgery available, many patients are more comfortable after surgery than ever before. Patients may even get out of a long hospital stay after the surgery. Additionally, this type of surgery is great for seniors because it can reduce the risks associated with blood loss during surgery and may lead to increased recovery of the digestive system.

The Surgical Clinic knows you may be nervous about surgery, but that does not mean you don’t have options. Call us today to discuss your surgical options and to learn more about the treatments for colon cancer treatment.

Meet Some of Our Surgeons

Marc E. Rosen, MD, FACOS

Downtown Clinic

Patrick S. Wolf, MD, FACS

St. Thomas West Clinic

K. Tyson Thomas, MD, FACS

St. Thomas West Clinic

John H. Boskind, MD, FACS

Summit Clinic, Mt. Juliet Clinic

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