Colon cancer: the 'silent killer' that claimed the life of Kirstie Alley and ... trends now

Colon cancer: the 'silent killer' that claimed the life of Kirstie Alley and ... trends now
Colon cancer: the 'silent killer' that claimed the life of Kirstie Alley and ... trends now

Colon cancer: the 'silent killer' that claimed the life of Kirstie Alley and ... trends now

Sitcom legend Kirstie Alley died to a hard-to-spot cancer dubbed a 'silent killer' this week.

Her family revealed the actress, 71, was recently diagnosed with colon cancer - a disease affecting one in 20 Americans.

If caught early, more than 90 percent Americans survive the disease. But it often grows and spreads with mild symptoms easily passed off for other, less sinister ailments - such as stomach cramps, weight loss, change in toilet habits or bloating. 

Unfortunately, only around a third of all colorectal cancers are diagnosed at this early stage. The majority of colon cancers are only spotted when it has spread 

beyond the wall of the colon or rectum or to distant parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat.

Ms Alley, 71, died of colorectal cancer have only recently having been diagnosed, suggesting that the disease had progressed to a late stage

Ms Alley, 71, died of colorectal cancer have only recently having been diagnosed, suggesting that the disease had progressed to a late stage

Colorectal cancer  is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine

It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon and, Over time, can become colon cancers

Approximately one in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetimes

Overall, rates of deaths and new cases of colorectal cancer in the US are trending downward, according to federal data

Overall, rates of deaths and new cases of colorectal cancer in the US are trending downward, according to federal data

Seniors from 55 to 75 are at the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer

Seniors from 55 to 75 are at the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer has a high survival rate when it is detected early

Colorectal cancer has a high survival rate when it is detected early

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the US behind skin, breast, and lung

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the US behind skin, breast, and lung 

According to her representatives, Alley had been undergoing treatments at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, near her home in Clearwater, Florida.

When caught early through routine screening, the chance of surviving colorectal cancer is high. Typically in early stages, the cancerous tumor can be removed surgically. 

But in later stages of the disease when the cancerous cells have spread, doctors have to take other routes such as chemotherapy and radiation to kill them off. 

There are more than 106,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in the US each year making it the fourth most common behind skin, breast, and lung.

That means about one in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer in their lifetimes, though the risk is slightly higher for men. 

Nearly 53,000 Americans have died of colorectal cancer this year, giving it a five year survival rate of 64 per cent.

Colon cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths, in the colon or rectum. 

Screening tests such as colonoscapies can detect those polyps, vastly increasing the chance of survival. Doctors can then remove those cancerous polyps right on the spot.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises Americans to start when they turn 45. But according to the CDC, three in 10 adults aged 50 to 75 are behind in their screening, meaning they could have undiagnoses problems. 

Colonoscopies, or the procedure in which a lighted tube called a colonoscope is inserted into the

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