This essay was written by a 9th grader
Every year in the United States, more than a hundred thousand people are diagnosed with colon cancer (National Cancer Institute). Out of this hundred thousand, approximately 25,000 die of colon cancer each year. To fully understand the harm involved with colon cancer, it is necessary to understand the basics of cancer.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, cancer is defined as “the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body.” Colon cancer is a type of “cancer that forms in the tissue of the colon” (National Cancer Institute). If the lining of the colon develops a mutation in which the cells start to multiply abnormally, small growths in the colon start to develop, known as polyps. According to A.J. Bidani MD, “Over three to ten years, these polyps start to grow and can become cancerous. The gold standard is to do a colonoscopy to detect and remove the polyps.” The National Cancer Institute reports that symptoms of colon cancer include bloody stools, narrow stools, stomach discomfort, or change of bowel habits. These symptoms, however, may not apply to every age.
It is recommended that everyone at the age of fifty or above get a colonoscopy, as colon cancer is most prevalent at that age. People are more likely to develop colon cancer if they smoke, eat a high fat diet, are obese, or have a family history of colon cancer (National Cancer Institute). In addition, those with Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), a syndrome which is caused by the mismatching of repair genes, have a high chance of developing colon cancer (PubMed). In order to prevent colon cancer, it is extremely necessary to receive a colonoscopy. This way, polyps can be detected and removed prior to the development of cancer. Also, eating a low fat diet and staying away from smoking and smokers will strongly decrease the chance of developing colon cancer.
The type of treatment for colon cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. In Stages 0-I, surgery is only needed to remove the cancer. This is because the polyp during these two stages has not grown past the colon wall. In Stage II, surgery may not be the only treatment needed. There is a small chance that chemotherapy is needed for numerous reasons varying from an abnormal cancer to the cancer blocking the colon. In Stage III, surgery and chemo is the standard procedure as the cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body but has only reached lymph nodes. Stage IV can involve surgery if the cancer has not spread into many organs, but usually results in chemotherapy as the cancer spreads to various organs (American Cancer Society). Depending on how severe the cancer is, surgery and chemotherapy is often used interchangeably.
One way to diagnose whether someone has polyps or not is by doing a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows the gastroenterologist to see the inside of the colon by inserting a colonoscope, a long flexible tube, into the rectum and search for polyps. Other methods that gastroenterologists use include Computerized Tomography (CT) scans and biopsies. CT scans produce 3D X-ray images of the inside of the body. Biopsies require the physician to extract cells or tissue from a possibly diseased area to examine. There are several types of biopsies that can be done to remove the cells/tissue including a needle biopsy and an endoscopic biopsy (Mayo Clinic). The endoscopic biopsy, which requires a tube to inserted into the body, is most commonly used for colon cancer.
As mentioned before, colon cancer is more prevalent in people who are fifty or older. The American Society of Clinical Oncology reported that by the age of forty-five, the risk of colon cancer is 87%. Colon cancer affects men and women equally.
Based on all of this research, I have learned some valuable facts about not only colon cancer, but cancer in general. For example, I had no idea that smoking could also cause colon cancer. Carcinogens from the cigarettes move to the colon. I also learned about the different symptoms of colon cancer and how it affects men and women equally. Lastly, I learned how obesity can lead to colon cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, fat cells increase cell reproduction. The digestive tract and gastroenterology has always seemed interesting to me and completing this paper on colon cancer was a great opportunity to learn more.
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