Symptoms of right colon cancer may be different from those of left colon cancer. They can include bleeding, which can lead to anemia. In some cases, anemia is the first sign of the disease
Symptoms of right-sided and left-sided colon cancer can differ due to where the cancer is located and where it can metastasize. Because the right side of the colon is larger than the left, tumors may take longer to cause noticeable symptoms. This article discusses how colon cancer symptoms differ between right and left side. It also reviews the diagnosis, treatment, and outlook for colon cancer, and lists diseases with similar symptoms.
Symptoms of colon cancer on the right side
Symptoms of right colon cancer can include blood in the stool, anemia, and weight loss. In cases where the cancer is close to the caecum, which joins the small and large intestines, the first symptom is often anemia due to chronic blood loss.
On the other hand, the symptoms of colon cancer on the left side are as follows:
– a change in bowel habits
– narrow, ribbon-like stools when the cancer is located at the bottom of the rectum.
This difference in symptoms is explained by the location of the cancer.
The right side of the colon is known as the ascending colon. It pushes digesting food up the right side of the abdomen before crossing the middle and down the left side towards the anus.
The opening on the right side of the colon is wider than that on the left side. This means that tumors on the right side can grow larger before the person experiences symptoms. Tumor growth on the right side also tends to be flat, making the tumors even less noticeable until they get larger.
Since the opening on the left side of the colon is narrower, the development of cancer makes the intestinal canal smaller, which can create a partial blockage. This can lead to more obvious symptoms.
Cancer in the right colon can metastasize to the tissues lining the pelvis and abdomen, but the left type can metastasize to the liver and lungs.
Right or left colon cancer
Here are some of the differences between right-sided and left-sided colon cancer.
Point of origin
The right side of the colon is connected to the cecum, which is the pouch that connects the small intestine to the large intestine. Tumors usually grow in the space of the colon. Conversely, the left side of the colon is connected to the rectum, where waste leaves the body. This cancer tends to grow around the wall of the colon and encircle it.
Right colon cancer can metastasize to the peritoneal region, which is the tissue that lines the pelvic and abdominal area. Metastasis refers to the process by which cancer cells spread from a primary tumor and form secondary tumors in another part of the body. In contrast, left colon cancer metastasizes to the lungs and liver.
The outlook for colon cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer, whether it has spread, and other factors. According to a 2018 study, if right-sided colon cancer is stage 1 or 2, the outlook is better than early-stage left-sided cancers. But if the colon cancer on the right side is at stage 3 or 4, the outlook becomes worse than that of the left side at these stages.
Because of the difference in symptoms and the time it takes for them to appear, people with right-sided colon cancer may be diagnosed later than people with left-sided cancer. Older research, conducted in 2008, looked at the outlook of 77,978 people with colon cancer. The median survival time for people with right colon cancer was 78 months, while that for people with left colon cancer was 89 months.
Diagnosis of colon cancer on the right side
Doctors base the diagnosis of colon cancer on the following tests:
– physical examination
– stool blood test
– colonoscopy, which allows you to visualize the entire colon and rectum
– biopsy, which consists of an analysis of the tissues of the area suspected of cancer
– blood tests, such as:
complete blood count, which measures different types of blood cells
tumor markers, which some colon cancer cells make
– imaging tests, such as:
Since colon cancer may not produce any symptoms until it has progressed, it is recommended that you start regular screenings starting at age 45.
Right colon cancer treatment
Colon cancer treatment can be local or systemic.
Local treatment affects the area of the colon where the tumor is, but not the whole body. Doctors use it more often for early-stage cancers. Here are the possible options:
Types of surgery include:
– polypectomy, which involves removing a polyp
– local excision, which involves removing a small cancer with a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue
– colectomy, which involves the removal of all or part of the colon, as well as nearby lymph nodes.
Ablation and embolization
Sometimes, when cancer metastasizes, doctors may use ablation and embolization to destroy small tumors in other parts of the body. The ablation destroys the tissues targeted by the doctor. The types of ablation are:
– high energy radio waves
– electromagnetic waves
This involves the use of high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. For some colon cancers, simultaneous chemotherapy makes radiation therapy more effective.
Systemic treatment involves the use of drugs capable of reaching cancer cells circulating in the body. Options include:
– chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells
– targeted therapy, which targets specific changes in cells that cause cancer
– immunotherapy, which helps the immune system identify and destroy cancer cells.
Other conditions causing these symptoms
There are a number of other diseases that can cause symptoms similar to right colon cancer. A person must see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Diverticula are small pockets that form and push outward in the wall of the colon. Diverticulitis develops when they become inflamed. Symptoms include:
– lower abdominal pain
– diarrhea or constipation
When a blood vessel in the diverticula bursts, it can cause bleeding from the trusted source, which can be serious.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes two diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. They both cause visible damage to the intestinal tract. Symptoms include
– bloody stools or rectal bleeding
– weight loss
– abdominal pain
– persistent diarrhea
Hemorrhoids are inflamed, swollen veins around the anus or lower rectum. They can be external or internal. Symptoms of the external type are as follows:
– anal pain
– anal itching
– hard, tender bumps near the anus
Internal hemorrhoids can cause bleeding, which results in the appearance of bright red blood in the stool. They can also extend, or fall, through the anal opening.
Polyps are noncancerous growths in the lining of the colon and rectum. Often they do not cause symptoms, but when they do, the symptoms may include:
– black, tarry stools due to bleeding
– observable blood in the stool
– fatigue due to anemia
Symptoms of right colon cancer may be more subtle than those of left colon cancer. They include bleeding and anemia. According to a reliable source, anemia is the first symptom and occurs due to continuous blood loss. Because the lumen on the right side of the colon is larger than the lumen on the left side, tumors there can grow large without producing symptoms. This is why regular screening is recommended for adults over the age of 45. If a person is concerned that they have colon cancer, they should see a doctor as soon as possible. There are a number of other conditions that may explain the symptoms. If a person needs cancer treatment, early diagnosis can make a significant difference in outlook.
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