Colorectal cancer, a cancer that attacks the large intestine, occurs as the result of many factors including genetic mutations, polyp development, and cellular behaviours. Understanding the growth rate and stages of colon cancer is essential for early detection and effective management by each colorectal surgeon, which is essential as this is the third most diagnosed cancer in Australia. Here, a leading female surgeon who is a colorectal surgeon in Melbourne discusses how colon cancer takes root, its growth pace, the stages it traverses, and the diverse outcomes for patients at different stages of the journey.
How Does Colon Cancer Start?
Colon cancer starts in the mucosa, the innermost layer of the gut, where various cell types coexist. Some of these cells, while they continuously regenerate, start rapid division – and it’s not known exactly why this happens. It is during this process that genetic errors may occur. Think about it as a tongue twister – when you say it slowly, there’s very little risk of making an error. But as you say it faster and faster, so errors happen more easily!
Occasionally, this process gives rise to polyps—small outgrowths hanging within the gut’s lumen. It’s important to note that not all polyps are indications of cancer. They come in different types:
- Adenomatous polyps: Comprising cells that form mucus-producing glands, these are labelled as precancerous or adenomatous polyps due to their potential to evolve into cancer cells.
- Hyperplastic polyps: These are benign, non-cancerous growths commonly found in the gut, though doctors may opt for a biopsy as a precaution.
- Inflammatory polyps: Like hyperplastic polyps, inflammatory polyps are benign and widespread.
- Serrated polyps: Bearing the potential to transform into colorectal cancer, these are also considered precancerous.
Colon Cancer Growth
The journey from a benign polyp to full-blown colon cancer is marked by a specific timeline. On average, a polyp in the gut metamorphoses into colon cancer within a window of 5 to 15 years.
Once cancer takes root, its growth proceeds at a measured pace—approximately 1 cm per year. This gradual progression contributes to the subtlety of symptoms during the initial stages, often rendering the disease asymptomatic until it reaches a size significant enough to cause bleeding or obstruct the gut, leading to symptoms like constipation.
What Influences Colon Cancer Growth?
Colon cancer’s growth is not a straightforward process; it is influenced by a lots of factors, making everyone’s journey unique. Genetic predisposition, dietary choices, and lifestyle factors all play their part in colon cancer growth. Consequently, the growth rate of colorectal cancer can vary significantly between individuals.
Some polyps evolve into metastatic cancer within just 5 years, which is an aggressive trajectory. In contrast, others may take up to 15 years to progress to a similar stage. This diversity underscores the importance of recognising the personalised nature of colon cancer development and tailoring screening and management strategies accordingly.
As we navigate the challenges of colorectal health as individuals or as a colorectal surgeon in Melbourne, it becomes clear that colon cancer is not a one-size-fits-all adversary. By comprehending the diverse growth rates and stages, we can move towards a future where early intervention and personalised care redefine the narrative of colon cancer, turning the tide in favour of individual well-being.
Help Fight Colon Cancer – Get Screened by a Leading Female Surgeon in Melbourne
Colon cancer is Australia’s silent epidemic, and colorectal surgeons can see it taking a significant toll on lives and healthcare resources. Raising public awareness about this disease is not just a matter of knowledge; it’s a matter of life and death. By promoting awareness, encouraging people to go for their colonoscopy from age 45 with a colorectal surgeon in Melbourne, and advocating for healthier lifestyles, we can take significant strides towards reducing the impact of colon cancer on our communities. Let’s shine a light on this silent epidemic and work together to save lives. Want to speak to a female surgeon? Book today.