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Colorectal cancer is a prevalent and potentially life-threatening disease that affects the colon (large intestine) or rectum.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the fundamentals of colorectal cancer, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

By understanding the nature of colorectal cancer, individuals can better recognize its signs, seek timely medical attention, and make informed decisions about their healthcare.


What is Colorectal Cancer?


Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer or colon cancer, originates from abnormal growths or tumors in the lining of the colon or rectum.

These tumors can develop from precancerous polyps, which are growths that form on the inner surface of the colon or rectum.

Over time, some polyps may progress to become cancerous, leading to the development of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, with significant morbidity and mortality rates.


Causes of Colorectal Cancer:


The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not fully understood, but several risk factors have been identified:

  • Age: Colorectal cancer is more common in older adults, with the majority of cases diagnosed after the age of 50.
  • Family history: Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps are at higher risk of developing the disease. 
  • Personal history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Individuals who have previously had colorectal polyps or conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis are at increased risk. 
  • Lifestyle factors: Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a diet high in red and processed meats, obesity, and lack of physical activity, can contribute to the development of colorectal cancer. 
  • Genetic factors: Certain genetic mutations or hereditary syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), can predispose individuals to colorectal cancer.

colon cancer - Understanding Colorectal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer


Colorectal cancer may initially present with few or no symptoms, which is why screening for the disease is essential.

However, as the cancer progresses, individuals may experience the following symptoms:

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Abdominal discomfort, cramping, or pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Persistent urge to have a bowel movement, even after emptying the bowel
  • Anemia or low red blood cell count, which may cause fatigue, weakness, or shortness of breath


Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer


Early detection of colorectal cancer is crucial for improving treatment outcomes and survival rates. Diagnostic tests and procedures used to detect colorectal cancer may include:

  • Colonoscopy: A procedure in which a flexible, lighted tube with a camera is inserted into the rectum and colon to examine the inner lining for abnormalities, such as polyps or cancerous growths. 
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT): These tests detect hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps. 
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Similar to colonoscopy but examines only the lower part of the colon and rectum. 
  • Imaging tests: Computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans may be performed to evaluate the extent of cancer spread (staging) and identify any metastases.

colon cancer treatment - Understanding Colorectal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer:


The treatment of colorectal cancer depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer, its location, and the individual’s overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the cancerous tumor and surrounding tissue is often the primary treatment for early-stage colorectal cancer. 
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth and is commonly used in combination with surgery for advanced colorectal cancer or to shrink tumors before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy). 
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells and may be used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. 
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy drugs specifically target certain molecules or pathways involved in cancer growth and may be used in combination with other treatments for advanced colorectal cancer. 
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells and may be used to treat advanced colorectal cancer that has not responded to other treatments.

colorectal cancer diagnosis - Understanding Colorectal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Prevention and Screening for Colorectal Cancer


Preventing colorectal cancer involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits and participating in routine screening. Lifestyle factors that can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer include:

  • Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins
  • Limiting consumption of red and processed meats
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption

Routine screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for individuals at average risk starting at age 45, with various screening options available, including colonoscopy, fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), flexible sigmoidoscopy, and virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography).

Screening allows for the detection of precancerous polyps or early-stage cancer when treatment is most effective.

Lifestyle Changes


Lifestyle changes can play a significant role in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer and improving overall colorectal health.

Here are some lifestyle modifications that individuals can incorporate into their daily routines to lower their risk of developing colorectal cancer:


  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
    Aim to achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
  2. Follow a Balanced Diet
    Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  3. Increase Physical Activity
    Engage in regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Incorporate a variety of exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or strength training.
  4. Limit Alcohol Consumption
    Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
  5. Quit Smoking
    Smoking is a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer and other types of cancer, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
  6. Stay Hydrated:
    Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Adequate hydration supports digestion, helps maintain regular bowel movements, and may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.


  1. Get Regular Screenings:

Follow recommended screening guidelines for colorectal cancer, starting at age 45 for individuals at average risk.

Discuss screening options with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate screening test for you, which may include colonoscopy, fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), flexible sigmoidoscopy, or virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography).

  1. Manage Stress:

By making these lifestyle changes and adopting healthy habits, individuals can reduce their risk of colorectal cancer and improve their overall colorectal health.

It’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized recommendations based on individual risk factors and medical history.

colorectal cancer lifeestyle - Understanding Colorectal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment




Colorectal cancer is a significant public health concern, but with early detection, appropriate treatment, and preventive measures, the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with the disease can be significantly improved.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for colorectal cancer empowers individuals to take proactive steps to protect their colorectal health and reduce their risk of developing this potentially life-threatening condition.

Through awareness, education, and timely intervention, we can continue to make strides in the prevention, detection, and treatment of colorectal cancer, ultimately saving lives and improving outcomes for individuals affected by the disease.


Contact Dr. Schneider

Contacting Dr. Schneider is a prudent step towards gaining comprehensive insights into colonoscopy and other screening methods.

Dr. Schneider, a distinguished gastroenterologist with a wealth of experience in digestive health, is well-equipped to provide personalized guidance tailored to individual needs.

With a commitment to patient education and well-being, Dr. Schneider ensures that individuals are informed about the procedure, addressing any concerns and emphasizing the significance of regular screenings for early detection.

Talk to us today to book your appointment.

For further reading on the procedures we perform, please visit our website or contact Dr. Schneider on 011-482-3010.




The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.