Actress Kirstie Alley died of colon cancer, according to reports.
The American Cancer Society on Tuesday reported the type of cancer suffered by the 71-year-old actress. PEOPLE reported that a representative for Alley confirmed the news.
Alley’s children, True and Lillie Parker, announced her death Monday, saying in part: “We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered.“
Colorectal (Colon) Cancer
According to the Cleveland Clinic, colon cancer develops from polyps (growths) in the colon’s inner lining that can become cancerous tumors.
Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it typically affects people ages 50 and older.
What are the symptoms?
Though you can have colon cancer without exhibiting symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic, common ones include:
- Blood on or in your stool: Talk to a healthcare provider if you notice blood in the toilet after you defecate or after wiping, or if your feces looks dark or bright red. It’s important to remember blood in feces doesn’t mean you have colon cancer. Other things — from hemorrhoids to anal tears to eating beets — may change the appearance of your feces.
- Persistent changes in your bowel habits (how you defecate): Talk to a healthcare provider if you have persistent constipation and/or diarrhea, or if you feel as though you still need to defecate after going to the bathroom.
- Abdominal (belly) pain: Talk to a healthcare provider if you have belly pain with no known cause that doesn’t go away or hurts a lot.
- Bloated stomach: Like belly pain, there are many things that may make you feel bloated. Talk to a healthcare provider if your bloated belly lasts for more than a week, gets worse or you have other symptoms like vomiting or blood in or on your feces.
- Unexplained weight loss: This is a noticeable drop in your body weight when you’re not trying to lose weight.
- Vomiting: Talk to a healthcare provider if you’ve been vomiting periodically for no known reason or if you vomit a lot in 24 hours.
- Fatigue and feeling short of breath: These are symptoms of anemia, which could be a sign of colon cancer.
What are common colon cancer screening tests?
A colonoscopy is the most common screening test for colon cancer. Other tests include:
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): This test detects hidden blood in your feces. Medical pathologists test samples of your feces for blood that you may not see just by looking.
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT): Like the FIT, this test looks for blood in feces that may not be visible.
- Fecal DNA test: This test looks for signs of genetic mutations and blood products in your feces.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Healthcare providers use a flexible scope called a sigmoidoscope to see inside your lower colon and rectum.
- Virtual colonoscopy: A virtual colonoscopy is an X-ray that looks for polyps, tumors and ulcers (sores) in your colon and rectum.