Your Top 10 Questions About Colon Cancer Answered

Health Writer
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When you’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer, there are some things you just need to know right way. Will I be able to eat my favorite foods? Can I go to the gym? Is colon cancer hereditary? Read on for answers to your top 10 questions about living with and navigating through this disease.

Will I Be Able to Work?

Some people can continue to work during colon cancer treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, your ability to maintain your regular work schedule during treatment depends on the stage of your cancer, the type of treatment you are receiving, your overall health, and the kind of work you do. If you feel able to keep working and decide to do so, you may need to modify your schedule or other aspects of your work life. If your employer has at least 15 employees, you may be eligible for workplace accommodations from the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Should I Tell My Friends and Co-workers?

Everyone copes with cancer differently. Whether or not you tell your friends and co-workers, and how much you tell them, is entirely up to you and your own comfort. If you choose not to share the news with your circle of friends and co-workers, don’t worry, you don’t have to go it alone. Beyond your medical team, there are support groups and other resources available to you through sites such as Fight Colorectal Cancer and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Is It My Fault?

While blaming yourself might be a natural reaction, your cancer is not your fault. We can reduce our risk of cancer by not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating nutritiously. However, cancer is a complex disease and happens as a result of interactions between our genetic makeup and different environmental factors. There is no simple reason you got cancer, or single action that can explain why cancer occurred.

Are My Children More Likely to Get Colon Cancer?

Approximately 160,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. According to National Institutes of Health, the majority of cases are sporadic, meaning that a cancer-causing genetic mutation can happen to anyone. When cancer occurs this way, it does not mean that your children are at greater risk of colon cancer. About five percent of people with colon cancer have a hereditary form, which means their children are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Your doctor can tell you the type of colon cancer you have and if your children are at a greater risk.


What Will I Be Able to Eat?

Depending on your treatment plan, you may experience side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, or weight gain—all of which can create challenges for your diet. While each person has unique dietary needs, you can find suggestions here on how to begin eating a nutrient-rich diet that will help you feel your best as quickly as possible.

Is There Any Financial Help Available?

Cancer care can be expensive, but help is available. One source is Blue Hope Financial Assistance. They offer financial assistance for those who qualify. Fight Colorectal Cancer also has a list of patient assistance programs on their site.


Should I Continue to Exercise?

Yes, with caution. According to Dr. Aleksandra Redjen, P.T., D.P.T., “Exercising can help minimize the effects of the cancer. However, cancer treatment can be very wearing, so listen to your body and realize that when you are tired, you should not exercise. Cancer can cause pain, numbness, weakness and balance issues, so reaching out to a physical therapist can be good to help you develop a plan.” You can ask your doctor for a recommendation or look here for a list of physical therapists in your area.


Can I Still Have Sex?

Yes. The majority of colon cancer survivors remain sexually active following treatment. However, it is important that you continue to discuss your sexuality with your healthcare provider. Sexual dysfunction is one of the most common long-term effects of colon cancer treatment, but studies show this issue is rarely discussed between patients and doctors. The type of surgery, side-effects of medications, and changes in body image are a few of the factors that can impact sexual health after cancer.

"Ask your nurse practitioner or physician if the sexual changes you're experiencing are due to the diagnosis or treatment," says Patricia Nishimoto, R.N., an oncology clinical nurse specialist at Tripler Army Medical Center who co-authored the study. "If the provider is uncomfortable, ask to be refered to a good clinical nurse specialist, social worker, or psychologist who is comfortable discussing sexual functioning."


I Don’t Know Any Colon Cancer Survivors, Do I?

Colon cancer doesn’t discriminate, but you likely do know some pretty famous survivors. President Ronald Reagan, TV host Sharon Osbourne, and sports stars such as third base coach of the Texas Rangers and lifelong athlete Tony Beasley, race car driver Scott Lagasse, Jr. and baseball legend Darryl Strawberry are all colon cancer survivors.

Will Cancer Affect My Mood?

The good news is that colon cancer is highly treatable. The American Cancer Society reports that the five-year survival rate is about 80 percent. However, even though this is wonderful news, just living with the constant stress of a cancer diagnosis can impact your mood. Sadness, anger, grief and many other feelings are common. If you or someone you love with colon cancer is experiencing a lower-than-usual mood, talk to your family, a counselor, or support group. Colon cancer patients with more social support tend to feel less anxious and depressed and report a better quality of life.