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The Colon
The colon is the last part of the digestive tract. The primary function of the colon is to absorb water from the material (chyme) that is left from the small bowel. As chyme passes through the colon the water is removed and it becomes more solid and forms feces or stool. There are significant amounts of bacteria in the colon. The colon does not produce any digestive enzymes.

Diseases of the Colon

The following is a brief discussion of some problems that can arise in the colon. It is for information only and is not complete. You should always talk to your physician about the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

Colon Polyps- Colon polyps are growths along the colon wall. Polyps are usually benign but some polyps have the potential to become colon cancers. If you have colon polyps you may need to get colonoscopies done on a regular basis. Colon polyps do not cause symptoms. If you have polyps, you should speak with your physician to determine what follow-up is needed.

Diverticulosis- Diverticulosis refers to multiple pouches hanging off the colon wall. These pouches occur between the muscles in the colon. Diverticuli are benign but may become infected (diverticulitis). Diverticulosis is more common in patients with constipation, straining, and low fiber diets but it can occur in anyone. The most common symptoms of diverticulosis is abdominal pain. If a diverticulum becomes infected it may cause fever and more significant pain most typically in the lower left abdomen. You should speak with your doctor if you have questions about diverticulosis.

Colon Cancer- Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States behind lung cancer. Most but not all colon cancers probably arise from colon polyps. Colon cancer is the only gastrointestinal cancer which has guidelines for routine screening. Everybody should be screened for colon cancer at age 50. If you have a family history of colon cancer or are an African American you should be screened at an earlier age. You should talk with your physician to find out what you need to do for colorectal cancer screening.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease- Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two types of inflammatory bowel disease that can involve the colon. These diseases are autoimmune diseases and involve the immune system attacking the colon. These diseases are treatable but not curable. They can have many manifestations that go beyond the colon and simple inflammation. Every patient with inflammatory bowel disease should see their physician regularly so the disease can be managed appropriately.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome- Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS) refers to a condition where patients have difficulties with their bowel habits and abdominal cramping. It can be associated with constipation, diarrhea, or both. The symptoms tend to come and go. The colon typically looks normal and the problem is associated with how the colon is sensing and moving through stool. The pathological problem in IBS is poorly understood and is the subject of ongoing research. IBS is a diagnosis once testing has not revealed another cause. Management can be difficult due to the poor understanding of the disease and waxing and waning course. IBS patients do not have decreased life expectancy and the disease is generally benign. You should speak with your physician if you have questions about IBS.

For more information on the stomach and diseases related to the colon you can use the links on our links page

In addition you can check out the Wikipedia link for more information on the colon:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colon_(anatomy)

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