Cecal carcinoma is colon cancer of the lower part of the digestive system. The caecum is the part of the colon that attaches to the small intestine. Most cases begin as intestinal polyps (abnormal growth of tissue) that are benign. Polyps are small and may not produce symptoms for a long period of time, even years. Over time some polyps become cancerous and as they grow will spread to the lymph nodes and liver.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. Many people diagnosed with colon cancer do not experience any symptoms in the early stages. Among signs and symptoms that should be reported to a physician right away are changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, weakness, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. Prognosis is improved with early detection and treatment.
The Dukes' classification system is one of the most widely used systems for staging colon and rectal cancer. It classifies these cancers by how far the tumour has spread and has been used by physicians for more than 60 years. The earliest stage (Stage A) is limited to the bowel wall and there is a five-year survival rate of 83 per cent if diagnosed at this stage. The next stage (Stage B) has growth into the muscular/fatty tissue but is not in the lymph nodes. This patient has a 70 per cent five-year survival rate. At Stage C there is metastasis into the lymph nodes and the survival rate decreases significantly to 30 per cent. When the cancer has spread to the liver (Stage D) there is only a 10 per cent chance of survival.
The Mayo Clinic names several factors that increase a person's risk for cecal carcinoma. Age is the largest risk factor. Ninety per cent of cases occur in individuals age 50 and older. African Americans have a higher incidence than people in other ethnic groups. Individuals who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are at higher risk. Other contributing factors include low fibre in the diet, high-fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, smoking and alcohol use.
The Mayo Clinic reports that there are three primary treatments for cecal carcinoma: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The physician will recommend treatment depending on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. The type of surgery will depend on the specific location of the cancer and the affected organs. Chemotherapy and radiation may be used to destroy cancer cells, shrink the tumour or control its growth, or these treatments may be used to relieve symptoms. Treating physicians tend to discuss all options with patients and the expected results of each.
Early detection is the key to prevention. Having intestinal polyps removed before they become cancerous may help prevent colon cancer. Physicians recommend having a sigmoidoscopy every three to five years beginning at age 50. Similar to a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy involves a visual examination of the rectum and colon. A yearly stool occult blood test is recommend for people 40 and older. Blood in the stool is not always visible to the naked eye. A small smear of stool is tested with a chemical that will change colour if it there is blood in the stool. Increasing fibre and reducing fat in the diet is a dietary change that may help reduce the risk of colon cancer.