Placido Domingo treated for colon cancer

Opera great Placido Domingo has undergone removal of a cancerous colon polyp. The 69 year-old tenor was hospitalized at Cedar Sinai Hospital in New York City last week and was discharged home yesterday. Last month, while performing in Japan, the singer began to experience abdominal pain and returned to New York for testing and treatment. The cancer was reported to be localized and the singer is expected to make a full recovery. Aside from singing, Domingo is also the general director of the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer killer overall and third most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States in both males and females.

The Colon:

The colon is part of the digestive system. It forms a long, muscular tube called the large intestine (also called the large bowel). The colon is the first 4 to 5 feet of the large intestine, with the rectum at the last several inches.

Partly digested food enters the colon from the small intestine. The colon removes water and nutrients from the food and turns the rest into waste (stool). The waste passes from the colon into the rectum and then out of the body through the anus.

Almost all colon cancer starts in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer. This is why screening for colon cancer with colonoscopy is so effective. (This will be a good topic for a future blog entry.)

A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue projecting from a mucous membrane. If it is attached to the surface by a narrow elongated stalk it is said to be pedunculated. If no stalk is present it is said to be sessile.

Risk factors for colon cancer:

  • Age over 50
  • African American and eastern European descent
  • Diet:
    • High in red or processed meat
    • high fat
    • low fiber
  • Cancer elsewhere in the body
  • Presence of polyps in the colon or rectum
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Certain genetic syndromes:
    • Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer(HNPCC)
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
  • Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol

For more information:

Colon Cancer
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.


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