Colon cancer

Cancer is one of the most threatening health conditions in the world. In the last few decades, case of patients who are diagnosed with cancer has been on the rise, which is attributed to changing lifestyle patterns that increases exposure to cancerous materials. Apart from rising case of cancer, it has been noted that new forms of cancers have been recorded.  Colon cancer is one type of cancers that cause more than 655,000 deaths in the world every year. Colon cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer in United States (Weitzel, 2009). It has also been ranked as the third largest cause of cancer related deaths in developed world. Colon cancers are cancer growths in colon, rectum, or in the appendix. It is more prevalent in old people. Colon cancer can have negative effects on the elderly patients unless they get necessary treatment and social assistance (Baron et al., (2005).

 Social work can play a grater role in alleviation of effects of colon cancers among elderly.

Colon cancer is scientifically referred to as colorectal cancer.  It is also referred to as large bowel cancer. It mainly include cancerous growths on the colon, rectum, or in the appendix. Colon cancer emanates from adenomatous polyps mainly found in the colon (Weitzel, 2009).  Adenomatous polyps are mushroom-shaped, that are benign in nature, although some of them develop into cancer over a period of time.

Invasive colon cancer is usually confined to colon wall. These cancerous cells are in stage I and II and can be cured through surgery (Baron et al., (2005).  However, if they are left untreated, they usually spread within a short period of time to other regions mainly growing in lymph nodes.

By this time, invasive colon cancers are usually in stage III.  Colon cancer in stage III can also be treated but treatment is not that effective (Weitzel, 2009). Only 73% of the cancerous cells can be cured either through surgery or through chemotherapy.

If left untreated at this stage, colon cancer cells moves to stage IV. At state IV, colon cancerous cells metastasize and grow at distant sites (Weitzel, 2009). In most cases, colorectal cancer usually spread to the liver which mainly causes jaundice and abdominal pain. This is the last stage in cell growth and it is not curable. However, the life of the patient can be extended mainly through chemotherapy. It has also been noted that in some cases, surgery combined with chemotherapy can cure the patient.

Colon cancer can occur at any age (Weitzel, 2009). However, research evidence shows that the risk for colon cancer increase with age and double every ten years after one attains the age of forty years.  Colon cancer is mainly described as a disease of the elderly since more than 75% of individuals with colon cancer are aged 75 years and above (Baron et al., (2005). Median age for diagnoses of cancer stands at 72 years. In the United States, the incidence of cancer is 35/100,000 (Weitzel, 2009). This means that 1 in every 20 people are likely to suffer from colon cancer in their lifetime. However, research evidence shows that older patients are under-represented in clinical trials which imply that it has become difficult to understand the comparison between prevalence in older adults and young people.

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancers varies depending on the part of the bowel which is affected by the tumor and whether the cancerous cells reaches stage IV and metastasizes to other body parts (Ades, 2009). However, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose colorectal cancers because these symptoms usually occur in other body parts. Local symptoms occur when the tumor is close to anus (Baron et al., (2005). Therefore, they include constipation, diarrhea, tenesmus, lower gastrointestinal bleeding, mucus, bloody stool, and many others. Sometimes, the cancer may develop into a large tumor that may obstruct the lumen leading to bowel obstruction. This leads to constipation, abdominal pain, vomiting, and other symptoms. Perforated or distended bowel leads to peritonitis. Constitutional symptoms occurs when there advances (Weitzel, 2009). For example due to bleeding patients may experience iron deficiency anemia leading to fatigue, palpitations, weight loss, and others. Symptoms of cancer may also include metastatic symptoms like jaundice, pale stool, and others which cancer spread to the liver.

Colon cancer takes many years to grow and hence early detection can be tricky although it increases the chances of cure of the condition (Cummings and Bingham, 1998).  Colon cancer is usually diagnosed through colonoscopy. However, there are many methods that are employed in screening of cancer. These include digital rectal exam (DRE) using gloved finger inserted in the distal area, fecal occult blood test (FOBT) which tests blood in the stool, and endoscopy (Weitzel, 2009). Endoscopy mainly involves sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. However, there are other screening methods like double contrast barium enema (DCBE), virtual colonoscopy, standard computed axial tomography, and others which are used in testing colon cancer.

Course of Illness, Lifespan and Family-focused Intervention

Colon cancer is one of the most complicated health conditions that affect old people.  Due to the weakness of their body symptoms, they are at an increased risk compared to other population groups owing to these factors.  When diagnosed with the condition, old people are likely to get into deep crisis on managing their life and they are more likely to become dependant on their family members and friends for care.  When diagnosed with the condition, old people enter into a crisis period before they can accept that they have the condition. This phase can be worse for the patient especially if they don’t have other people to support them by their side (Marshall and Altpeter, 2005).  Emotional disturbances and may lack of social support may easily led to aggravation of the disease symptoms and hence patients will enter into a chronic stage. This is a dangerous phase and if not taken care of, patients can easily die from the condition. However, if they have good care after the diagnosis of the condition, they can easily recover from the initial crisis.  If an elderly person has someone who can take good care of the patient, they are in position to seek medical advice and hence recover faster compared to when they do not have anyone to take care of them.  The terminal phase is the worst phase that patients have to deal with. At terminal phase, patients suffer pain and need constant attention and care. This phase may present challenge for the patient and caretakers and in case of older people, they may be taken to a nursing home or an elderly home where they are taken care of. Terminal phase in coronary cancer is challenging phase even for patients since they understand that they are going to die.