The phrases colorectal and colon cancer are frequently used synonymously, which causes misunderstanding among the general public. All of these words, however, pertain to different but related medical disorders. This article will examine the distinctions and similarities between colon and colorectal cancer, including their classifications, risk factors, symptoms, modes of diagnosis, and available treatments.
The phrase “colorectal cancer” refers to a wide range of tumors that start in the rectum and colon (large intestine). The digestive system’s colon and rectum are in charge of generating and storing faeces before it is expelled from the body, as well as absorbing water and electrolytes. Colon and rectal cancers are thus included in the category of colorectal cancer.
However, the term “colon cancer” particularly describes cancers that arise in the colon, which is the longest segment of the large intestine. The ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid colons are the several segments that make up the colon. Any of these segments may develop cancer, which can result in different forms of colon cancer.
The risk factors for colorectal cancer and colon cancer are often similar, with some variations. Common risk factors include age, family history, personal history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, a diet high in red and processed meats, obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption.
While age is a significant risk factor for both colorectal and colon cancer, with the majority of cases occurring in individuals over the age of 50, there has been a concerning rise in cases among younger adults in recent years. This trend emphasizes the importance of early detection and awareness, regardless of age.
The symptoms of colorectal cancer and colon cancer can overlap, making it challenging to differentiate between the two based solely on clinical presentation. Common symptoms include changes in bowel habits (such as diarrhea or constipation), blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort or pain, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue.
It’s crucial to note that many individuals with colorectal or colon cancer may not experience noticeable symptoms in the early stages of the disease. This underscores the significance of routine screening and early detection methods to identify and address the cancer before it advances.
The diagnostic methods for colorectal cancer and colon cancer involve a combination of screening, imaging, and confirmatory tests. Screening tests, such as colonoscopies, are essential for detecting precancerous polyps or early-stage cancers. Other screening options include fecal occult blood tests and flexible sigmoidoscopies.
If a screening test suggests the presence of cancer or abnormalities, further diagnostic procedures are performed. These may include imaging studies like computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Additionally, a biopsy is often conducted to confirm the diagnosis by examining a sample of tissue from the affected area.
Treatment strategies for colorectal cancer and colon cancer are similar and depend on the stage of the cancer, its location, and the overall health of the patient. Common treatment modalities include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
For early-stage colon and colorectal malignancies, surgery is frequently the main course of therapy. To guarantee that no cancer cells remain after surgery, the tumour and the surrounding tissues are eliminated. A colostomy, in which waste is expelled from the body through a hole in the abdominal wall, may be necessary in certain situations.
Chemotherapy, which targets any leftover cancer cells or shrinks tumors prior to surgery, may be advised before or after surgery. Chemotherapy employs medications to kill cancer cells or slow their development. Although less frequently used for colon cancer, radiation therapy—which utilizes high-energy rays to kill cancer cells—may be performed in some circumstances.
In summary, while colorectal cancer is a broader term encompassing both colon and rectal cancers, colon cancer specifically refers to malignancies arising in the colon. Despite their distinctions, these two terms are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion among the public.
It is essential for early identification and efficient management of colorectal and colon cancers to be aware of the risk factors, symptoms, diagnostic techniques, and available treatments. Regular screenings, including colonoscopies, are essential for detecting precancerous lesions or early-stage malignancies, increasing the likelihood that patients would receive a successful course of treatment and experience better results.
A better knowledge and prevention of colorectal and colon cancers will result from continued efforts to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, raise awareness, and improve screening techniques as research into these diseases advances. Through deciphering these terminologies and advocating for preventative medical treatment, we can work together to lessen the impact of these illnesses and enhance the lives of those impacted by colon and colorectal cancer.
Janvi Dhiman holds a Master's degree in Biotechnology and has a background in both undergraduate and postgraduate studies from Amity University, Noida. Her passion lies in making meaningful contributions to the healthcare and research sectors. Currently, she is a valued member of our team, serving as a Research Analyst and a medical content writer at DiseaseInfoHub.