Expository Essay Sample on Colon Cancer

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Harvey Mudd College
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Colon cancer, which is sometimes referred to as cancer of the bowels or bowel cancer, is cancer that attacks the colon and the rectum hence the name colorectal cancer is sometimes used. It is mostly an old-age disease, with most of the patients being individuals in their 50s and above (Parker & Parker, 2003, p. 32). It has been discovered in the recent past that colon cancer is fast increasing in prevalence; the disease's leading cause being unhealthy lifestyles that are so characteristic of the 21st century. The fact that colon cancer is one of the commonest types of cancer today prompts a careful review of the literature on the disease so that this knowledge may contribute towards prevention, control, and treatment efforts.

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Risks and Symptoms

According to Parker and Parker (2002, p. 40), diet and lifestyle are the two principal causes of colon cancer. Particularly, the consumption of red meat, alcohol, processed meat, and smoking significantly increase ones susceptibility to the disease. Correspondingly, the lack of physical exercise and activity in old age can significantly increase a persons chances of getting colonic cancer, especially in the instance where it is coupled with the unhealthy dietary choices above. Obesity is particularly a serious factor to consider in this case. Research indicates that in its initial stages, colon cancer manifests most commonly as a bloody stool and constant fatigue often accompanied by weight loss and abnormal bowel movements that come with sharp abdominal pains (Parker & Parker, 2002, p. 45). Samples of tissue obtained in colonoscopy indicate that the disease typically starts in the form of a tumor, often benign in nature, which develops to become cancerous in most cases, more so when the risk factors above are or have been maintained over an extended period.

Once mature, the benign tumor will be the cause of bloody stool and lack of appetite. The blood is usually very dark or bright red. There may also be vomiting and diarrhea as the colon fails to perform its digestive functions to the fullest (National Cancer Institute, 2017, n.p.). Colon cancer occurs in five main stages: Stage 0, Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV. In maturity, colon cancer can and often spreads to other parts of the body, most commonly the pancreas, stomach, and generally the areas adjacent to the infected colon. The five-year survival rate for the disease is around 65% (Wcrf.org, 2017, n.p).

Genetic Factors

Although it has been noted that most of the causes of colon cancer are dietary and lifestyle-related, there are genetic factors that are also contributors to its development or aggravation. First of all, the presence of adenomatous polyposis in a family significantly increases the chances of people within it acquiring colon cancer before their 60th year (Engin, 2015, p. 115). On a similar note, the presence of non-polyposis colonic cancer in a family almost guarantees the presence of cancer in individuals within it. It must be observed, however, that both hereditary adenomatous polyposis and nonpolyposis colonic cancer are relatively rare conditions. Statistics by the National Cancer Institute (2017, n.p) reveal that while these two factors more so familial non-polyposis colonic cancer almost always guarantee the presence of colon cancer for an individual, they account for just about 5% of the total noted cases of the disease. Elsewhere, the presence of any of the two variations of the inflammatory colon disease (albeit ulcerative colitis) increases the risk factor for colon cancer substantially (Parker & Parker, 2002, p. 123). It must be noted that inflammatory bowel diseases have been defined, though not elaborately, as being caused or aggravated by genetics.

Ages Affected

It has been already highlighted above that colon cancer is mostly an old-age disease. While discourse differs on the exact reason why colonic cancer is insignificant in the youth and middle-aged people, all research makes confluence of the fact that the disease is more prominent in the elderly, and particularly those above 80 years of age (Chu, 2009, p. 71). For instance, in the United Kingdom, cases of colon cancer were to be found in individuals strictly in the age bracket of 85 to 89 years as of 2013 (Cancer Research UK, 2017, n.p). Understandably, this statistic may be used to approximate the age bracket for colon cancer patients throughout most of Europe because the UK lifestyle is, arguably, microcosmic of the traditional European lifestyle. The World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF Intl.) reveals that almost 100% of colon cancer patients are in their 70s or older, with the percentage of individuals under 60 with colon cancer being very low (Wcrf.org, 2017, n.p.).

Global and Regional Prevalence

There are about 1.4 million colon cancer patients in the world at any given point (Wcrf.org. 2017, n.p.). Specifically, it is significantly more common in the developed countries than in the Second and Third World (Chu, 2002. p. 200). As a matter of fact, the more developed the region, the higher the prevalence of colon cancer according to the World Cancer Research Foundation. Statistics from research conducted by the organization show that South Korea is leading the world in the number of colon cancer cases, with an age-standardized rate of 45 out of every 100,000 in the world (Wcrf.org, 2017, n.p). Close behind came Slovakia, Hungary, Denmark, and the Netherlands, with Czech, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, and Slovenia winding up the top 10. Notably, South Korea is the only Asian nation in the groups, and there is no African or even third-world country in the top ten. The age-standardized rate for colon cancer for all the top ten countries was 45 and above with some of the first nations registering ages as high as 61 (Slovakia) and 58 (Hungary). Furthermore, the statistics of UK colon cancer prevalence reveal a 14% rise in the presence of the disease since the 1970s, a statistic that can be justifiably used to strengthen the argument that the lifestyle of the 21st century is much to blame for it. Colon cancer is negligible in Africa and most of Asia, with the disease being virtually unheard of in some Asian and African countries (Wcrf.org. 2017, n.p.).

Treatment and Medication

Colon cancer is quite difficult to treat beyond a certain point, that is, Stage III (Chang & Kopetz, 2015, p. 3201). Beyond this stage, the disease starts spreading to other parts of the body and healthcare focus shifts to containment rather than cure (Wadler, 2007, p. 359). However, in the early stages, it can be treated. Remarkably, each of the five stages of colon cancer has unique treatment as follows:

Stage 0: It is also called carcinoma in situ, and it can be treated with local excision of the infected area. When the tumor is too big to be excised, the resection and anastomosis can be done (National Cancer Institute, 2017, n.p.)

Stage I: This is treated by resection and anastomosis

Stage II: Colon cancer at this stage is also treated using resection and anastomosis

Stage III: Chemotherapy is used alongside resection and anastomosis

Stage IV: A combination of excision, resection as well as anastomosis, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy is applied in this case.

Each of the treatment approaches above seeks to contain the spread of cancerous tissue and where possible get rid of it. Treatment in the last two stages makes use of advanced applications of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, chiefly targeted therapy, chemoembolization (of the hepatic artery), and radiofrequency ablation (Wadler, 2007, p. 360; National Cancer Institute, 2017, n.p.).


In a nutshell, colon cancer is the world's third-most-prevalent cancer, a phenomenon that prompts an in-depth analysis of the disease in a bid to combat it effectively. With over 1 million cases in a year and over 600,000 deaths within the five-year survival window, it needs no telling that the disease indeed is a real menace. It has been identified that lifestyle and diet are mostly to blame for the increased prevalence of the ailment, which means that activism should be geared towards informing people of the risk factors mentioned above. Although much is being done to prevent colon cancer and contain it, the pandemic seems to be gaining ground nonetheless. Thus, it goes beyond the boundaries of professional medical control to become an issue of both personal and social concern. Individuals, families, and communities should join hands in the effort to fight this disease, as is already being done with other cancers and diseases.

Reference List

Wcrf.org. (2017). Colon cancer statistics | World Cancer Research Fund International.

[online] Available at: <http://www.wcrf.org/int/cancer-facts-figures/data-specific-cancers/colon -cancer-statistics> [Accessed 10 Jan. 2017].

Cancer Research UK. (2017). Bowel cancer incidence statistics. [online] Available at:

<http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer/incidence> [Accessed 10 Jan. 2017].

Chang, G. and Kopetz, S. (2015). Coordination of care in colon cancer. Cancer, 121(18),

pp. 3201-3202.

Chu, E. (2009). Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Clinical Colorectal Cancer, 8(2), p.71.

Chu, E. (2002). Colorectal Cancer: Targeting Metastasis and Angiogenesis. Clinical Colon

Cancer, 1(4), p.200.

Engin, O. (2015). Colon polyps and the prevention of colorectal cancer. 1st ed. New York:


National Cancer Institute. (2017). Colon Cancer Treatment. [online] Available at:

<https://www.cancer.gov/types/colon /patient/colon-treatment-pdq> [Accessed 10 Jan. 2017].

Parker, J. and Parker, P. (2003). Colon cancer. 1st ed. San Diego, CA: ICON Health.

Parker, J. and Parker, P. (2002). The Official Patient's Sourcebook on Colon Cancer. 1st ed. San

Diego: ICON Group International Inc.

Wadler, S. (2007). Targeted Therapy in Colorectal Cancer. Clinical Colorectal Cancer, 6(5),


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