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cancer du colon

What is Colon Cancer?

The colon and the rectum make up the large intestine (large bowel), the lower part of the digestive system. The large intestine measures about 1.5 m in length. Its main function is to absorb water and some nutrients, to allow fermentation and to store waste. The waste material is called stool (or feces). The feces leave the body through the anus during a bowel movement.

Colon cancer occurs when the cells in the lining of the colon or rectum start growing and multiplying out of control, forming tumors. The cancerous cells damage the surrounding tissue and interfere with the normal function of the organ. Sometimes, tumors cells may break away and metastasize in other parts of the body. Colon cancer tends to spread to the liver or lungs.

Increase its chances of cure with early screening

As nearly all colon cancers begin as non-cancerous polyps (benign growths on the inner wall of the large intestine), this disease can be prevented when these polyps are discovered through screening tests and removed.

In addition, when colon cancer has occurred, it usually grows slowly. Therefore, the earlier it is found, the more likely that the treatment will be successful. When detected in its early stages, colon cancer has a 90 % chance of cure.

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13 500

men received colorectal cancer diagnostis in 2014 in Canada

10 800

Women received a colorectal cancer diagnosis in 2014 in Canada

9 300

Canadians died of colorectal cancer in 2014


Canadians are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every day


Canadians die from colorectal cancer every day

Some statistics on colon cancer

Colon cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed form of cancer among men and women in Canada and it represents the second most common cause of cancer-related death in Canada. In 2014 it is estimated that 24,400 Canadians were diagnosed with colon cancer and 9,300 Canadians died from the disease. On average, 67 Canadians are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 26 die every day.

Age: a risk factor

The risk of developing cancer increases with age. Over 90% of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in Canadians over the age of 50, but it is possible to develop colon cancer at an earlier age (especially if family history is associated).

What are the risk factors?

The majority of all colon cancers arise in patients without any known risk factors. Many factors may influence the risk of colon cancer :

    • Age over 50 yrs
    • A personal history of colon cancer or polyps
    • Family history of colon cancer in a first degree relative (parent, sibling)
    • Family history of colon cancer in several second degree relatives (grandparents, uncles, aunts)
    • Inherited syndromes that increase the risk for colon cancer: familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Obesity
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Diabetes
    • Dietary factors: red and processed meat; low-fiber, high-fat diet
    • Alcohol
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Radiation therapy for previous cancers
    • Ethnicity: increased risk among Ashkenazi Jews (from Eastern Europe)

What to do to reduce your risk?

While you cannot influence some of your risk factors for colon cancer such as your age and your family history, you can make changes in your everyday lifestyle. There are three ways to reduce your personal risk of colon cancer :

  • Adopt a healthy diet

    Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They contain vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants that interfere with the process of developing cancer. Limit your alcohol intake and quit smoking.

  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight

    Be physically active for 30 minutes on most days and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Physical activity helps speed the food through the digestive system and reduces exposure to cancer-causing agents in the food.

  • Get screened for colon cancer

    Following screening guidelines is one of the most certain ways to prevent colon cancer. Screening may detect precancerous conditions such as polyps or cancerous lesions in their early stages. Keep in mind that the sooner the cancer is detected, the better the response to treatment and the better the chances of survival are.

What are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?

Often, there are no symptoms of colon cancer in its early stages. Signs and symptoms will vary depending on the cancer’s size and location in large intestine and include :

      • Visible rectal bleeding
      • Microscopic blood in the stool
      • A change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation or a change of the stool consistency that lasts for more than two weeks)
      • Persistent abdominal discomfort (pain, gas, cramps, fullness)
      • Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
      • Weakness, fatigue
      • Unexplained weight loss
      • Abdominal distension
      • Vomiting
      • Anemia
      • Unexplained fever