Kirsty Alley died of colon cancer. Here are the risk factors and signs of the disease.

Kirstie Alley died of colon cancer, her rep confirmed this week. actor’s family announced monday that she had died at the age of 71, saying that the cancer was “recently discovered.” According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, an estimated 151,030 people in the US will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year.

According to the Mayo Clinic, colon cancer begins in the large intestine, or colon, the final part of the digestive tract, and usually occurs as small, noncancerous clumps of cells in the colon. These clumps of cells, called polyps, can develop into cancer when healthy cells mutate, leading to colon cancer.

Polyps that do develop may be small and produce few symptoms, if any. Because of this, regular screening tests are recommended for adults 45 and older to check for possible polyps and to identify and remove polyps before they turn into cancer.

Some symptoms of colon cancer include a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation; rectal bleeding or blood in your stools; discomfort such as cramping or gas; and unexplained weight loss, according to the clinic.

According to the Mayo Clinic, colon cancer typically affects older adults, but can occur at any age. Smoking, having diabetes or obesity, and eating a low-fiber diet can increase the risk. African Americans are also at a higher risk of colon cancer. Family history of colon cancer and a history of chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are also among the factors that can increase the risk.

While overall rates of this type of cancer have decreased by about 1% per year, this mostly reflects rates in older adults. According to the American Cancer Society, the rate actually increased by 2% for people under 50 and 1% for those aged 50 to 64.

Patients age 45 and older should talk to their doctor about screening, such as a stool test or a visual exam, such as a colonoscopy. Eating a healthy diet and managing your weight is one way to reduce the risk.

The Mayo Clinic recommends eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, cutting down on alcohol and quitting smoking.

According to the American Cancer Society, treatment for colon cancer may include surgery to remove polyps or cancer cells as well as chemotherapy. Treatment may depend on the stage of the cancer, for example, stage II colon cancer may have grown through the wall of the colon, and patients may require surgery to remove part of the colon, called a partial colectomy. goes.

Stage IV colon cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, not surgery. Sometimes, a colectomy or diverting colostomy — cutting the colon above the level of the cancer and connecting the end to an opening in the skin on the abdomen to drain waste — may be performed.

In announcing her death, Elle’s children, True and Lily Parks, thanked the doctors and nurses at Moffitt Medical Center in Tampa, Florida, for their care. “As iconic as she was on screen, she was also an amazing mother and grandmother,” he added.

The five-year survival rate for localized colon cancer, meaning there is no indication that the cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum, is 91%, according to the American Cancer Society. However, the five-year survival rate for distant colon cancer — when the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body — drops to 14%. It is unclear what stage of cancer Alley had or how recently she was diagnosed.

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