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The ascending colon is one part of four sections of the large intestine. This first section of the large intestine is connected to the small intestine by a section of bowel called the cecum. The ascending colon runs through the abdominal cavity, upwards toward the transverse colon for approximately eight inches (20 cm).
One of the main functions of the colon is to remove the water and other key nutrients from waste material and recycle it back into the body. As the waste material exits the small intestine it will move into the cecum and then the ascending colon where this process of extracting starts. The waste material is moved upwards toward the transverse section of the colon by a process called peristalsis.
Peristalsis is the coordinated contraction of muscle movement to move food or waste through a tube. To simplify, food and waste particles are squeezed through a tube-like structure by a squeezing motion. Peristalsis takes place in the esophagus when an individual swallows food. It also takes place in the colon as it moves solid waste through the large intestine to be expelled from the body through the rectum.
Disorders of the ascending colon include polyps. This is a fleshy growth that can protrude from the lining of the colon. These polyps can become larger and lead to colon cancer if they are not treated. Doctors recommend that everyone over the age of 50 receive a colonoscopy every three to five years to check for and remove any existing polyps.
During a colonoscopy, the doctor will insert a flexible instrument called a colonoscope into the rectum and advance it through the length of the colon. This colonoscope has a small camera and light attached to it to enable the doctor to visualize the lining of the colon. It also has extra ports attached through which the doctor can pass any surgical instruments needed to remove tissue for biopsy or to remove polyps.
Some individuals will develop an ascending colon mass. This type of mass is almost always colon cancer. The individual with a mass in this location may not have any symptoms until the cancer is advanced. This is because a mass in the ascending colon is less likely to cause obstruction because the fecal matter in this section of the colon is mainly liquid.
It is important to maintain a healthy digestive system to avoid any complications such as polyps or colon cancer. The best way to do this is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Water is essential to a healthy colon because it helps to keep the stool soft and promotes bowel movements. Regular exercise will also help the colon stay healthy by promoting the elimination of waste. A proper functioning colon is important to a healthy body.