Colon Cancer: Knowing Your Risks and How to Cope

Colon Cancer: Knowing Your Risks and How to Cope


Colon cancer (colorectal cancer) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Jamaica. In 2018, 642 new cases were recorded and 373 persons passed away from the disease.

This type of cancer occurs in the colon, which is the large intestine, or in the rectum. It is developed from abnormal growths called polyps which can be removed before they become cancerous. It is, therefore, one of the most preventable cancers if persons are screened regularly and practice a healthy lifestyle.

Risk Factors

  • Obesity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Diet high in processed fat and low in fibre
  • Excessive smoking
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Being over the age of 45
  • Family history

Warning Signs

  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Change in bowel movements (sudden bouts of diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Unexplained anaemia or low blood count

Making a Diagnosis

Doctors encourage persons to do a colonoscopy if they notice one or more of the above warning signs. This procedure involves placing a colonoscope (flexible tube) into the rectum with a tiny camera attached to view the inside of the entire colon, and remove polyps before they become cancerous. It also allows for biopsies to be done where necessary. A light sedative is always used to make the procedure more comfortable. Other tests include Barium Enema, CT Colonoscopy and screening.

After the Diagnosis – Coping Strategies

Feelings of fear, sadness, guilt, disillusionment and anger often come after receiving a cancer diagnosis. However, the JCS provides the following as guidelines to living with the disease.

  • Find out what to expect – Gathering information from medical experts on treatment options and the implications of each will empower patients and help them to deal with the fear of the unknown.


  • Get regular check-ups – This allows doctors to know if their patients’ health is improving and to determine the best treatment options.
  • Make lifestyle changes – Patients are encouraged to make better food choices and to engage in some type of physical activity. This strengthens the immune system and helps to reduce feelings of depression.


  • Hold on to a sense of normalcy – A cancer diagnosis does not prevent persons from living a long and fulfilling life. Individuals should instead continue to take pleasure in spending time with friends and family, engaging in physical activity, taking trips and developing their career goals.


  • Seek emotional support – Family and friends can be a source of emotional support as well as professional counselling, both of which allow persons to process their emotions and give them the tools to handle these emotions.

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