Cancer which starts in the colon or the rectum is called colorectal cancer. It is also called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where cancer starts. Colon cancer and rectal cancer have many common features, so they are grouped together as colorectal cancer.
Normally, colorectal cancer starts with a growth called a “polyp” on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. It’s not necessary that all polyps turn cancerous but some might over the course of several years. The chances of a polyp turning cancerous depend on the kind of polyp. There are two main type of polyps –
Adenomas or Adenomatous polyps – There is a likelihood of adenomatous polyps turning cancerous. That’s why adenomas are called pre-cancerous condition.
Hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps – These polyps are common but are not cancerous.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
These are the prominent colorectal cancer symptoms:
Stool getting narrower than usual
Blood (very dark or bright red color) in the stool
Frequent changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea and constipation
Frequent gas pains, abdominal cramps, fullness and bloating
Unexpected weight loss
Causes of Colorectal Cancer
It is extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of colorectal cancer. However, there are several factors which increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Diet Factors – People who intake high fiber food such as fat and meat, especially smoked meats are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Apart from this, obesity, smoking and alcohol intake are the other causes for developing it.
Genetic Factors – There are greater chances of developing colorectal cancer if someone has a family history of this disease. One should construct a family tree before approaching Clinical Genetics Unit to ascertain whether the screening of the disease is required or not.
Screening is the process of examining people who do not have colorectal cancer symptoms. The screening test has two types.
Test which detects colorectal polyps and cancer – This test examines the colon structure to find problem areas. It is done through x-rays. The polyps discovered during this test are removed to avoid colorectal cancer.
Cancer Detection Test – Stool is examined to detect the signs of cancer. This test is less invasive but it can’t detect polyps.
There are several stages of colorectal cancer starting from stage 0 to stage 4. 0 being the initial and 4 being severe.
Treatment is determined by the severity of the disease. Early stage requires less intervention where surgery removes the small tumors and chemotherapy kills the remaining cells. If the disease has spread to other parts of the body, it might require the removal of the entire sections of large intestine.
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
The month of March is celebrated as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Its purpose is to create awareness about colorectal cancer and developing an action plan for the prevention of the disease. Anyone can be a part of this noble cause and should also get their screening done.
Aforementioned facts about the symptoms and treatment should be taken into consideration and one must consult an experienced medical practitioner for the effective treatment of colorectal cancer.
Newport Family Medicine, located in Newport Beach, CA, offers full-service family practice from pregnancy through childhood and adulthood to maturity. We provide comprehensive health care for people of all age groups.