Colorectal cancer is a deadly disease that is one of the most common cancers in the United States.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women. This cancer type is often diagnosed in the later stages when it has become resistant to treatment.
The five-year survival rates are higher when colorectal cancer is detected early. That’s why a complete understanding of this disease, its symptoms, and diagnostic methods can be so crucial for prevention.
Colorectal cancer is typically marked by the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the colon or rectum. These cells can multiply and eventually destroy healthy tissue as they grow or may even spread to other parts of the body.
The symptoms of colorectal cancer may also include blood in stool, diarrhea, unintentional weight loss, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits.
Treatment for colorectal cancer will depend on the type and severity and can include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Prevention methods include screening methods such as colonoscopy and fecal occult blood test.
In this article, we explore the basics of colorectal cancer and how to diagnose this disease through a testing process.
Colorectal Cancer Explained
Colorectal Cancer is the term used to describe cancer that has started in the colon, which is an area of your large intestine, or in the rectum, which is the lower end of your large intestine.
Colorectal cancer generally begins as an abnormal growth of cells called polyps. This is referred to as adenoma (which means “adenoid cystic tumors”). If left untreated, adenomas can develop into cancerous tumors.
It’s estimated that 1 in every 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
Approximately 10 percent of cases occur in those under the age of 50.
The presentation of colorectal cancer can be quite variable, and most cases are not detected until either symptoms appear or signs are seen on a routine endoscopic screening test (colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy).
Depending on the stage of cancer, symptoms can include cramping, rectal bleeding, changes to bowel habit or weight loss.
When caught early there can be successful treatment but it is important to seek advice from your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.
Most colorectal cancers start as adenomas, and these tend to occur on the outer and inner aspects of the lower part of colon known as sigmoid colon.
A tumor can also start inside one any part of the colon or rectum, but this is not very common.
There are several types of colon cancer, let’s look at the breakdown on them below:
Classical (end stage) colon cancer
This type is the most common type of colon cancer and is also the deadliest. The spread of colon cancer to other parts of the body is called metastasis.
Malignant (new) Colon Cancer
It is a tumor that grows inside the colon and rectum. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the second most common form of cancer in the United States.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
People with colorectal cancer can have a wide range of symptoms.
A specific symptom of colorectal cancer, however, is a persistent change in the size, shape, or other characteristics of the bowel.
You should talk to your doctor about changes in bowel habits that last for two weeks or longer.
Most common symptom of colorectal cancer are as follows:
- Persistent change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
These are the most common symptoms.
Other symptoms may include pain in the rectum or in the anal region.
How is Colorectal Cancer diagnosed?
Colorectal cancer can be hard to diagnose, because the symptoms have overlapping features with other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
The important thing is to not be afraid of having your symptoms checked out.
Many people think it is normal to have lower back pain or severe cramping but, if you experience these symptoms in excess then see a doctor and do not ignore them.
Tests used for diagnosis of colorectal cancer include:
The first thing to do is to have a colonoscopy, which is a procedure where the doctor examines the rectum and colon to view them on camera.
This is the most common test, as it is affordable and non-invasive.
It allows for early diagnosis.
A thin, flexible tube (oscopy) is inserted into the rectum. It is inserted through the anus and stretched. Inside the tube, the doctor will look at the inside of the rectum and colon.
Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer
There are several treatment options for colon cancer, but surgical options are preferred to other treatments as they are the most effective in reducing cancer cells.
One type of surgery is called S-T Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan, which allows doctors to identify where the tumor is located.
However, the treatment has very limited success.
One of the leading surgical options for colon cancer is the Transseptal Surgery, which aims to remove the tumor but doctors know that this procedure will never cure colon cancer.
The general survival rate for stage 4 colon cancer is 25 percent.
In addition, only 5 percent of people with stage 4 colon cancer survive for 10 years or more.
Cancer is a general term for abnormal cellular growth inside or on the body and there are many forms of the disease.
Colorectal cancer treatments vary depending on a number of factors and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and combinations of these treatments.
Oncologists used to believe that colorectal cancers were caused by hereditary gene mutations but are now attributing them to environmental factors such as diet, heredity and lifestyle choices instead.
If you want to reduce your colorectal cancer risk factors through lifestyle changes then start by eating lots of fruits and vegetables (eat as many different colour types as possible) because they help provide antioxidants that kill damaging free radicals in the gut and promote natural cell regeneration.
You also need to exercise regularly because if you don’t keep fit with regular aerobic exercise then it can increase your chances of gaining weight which can create an environment within your colon conducive to developing cancerous cells.
Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:
A majority of people with colon cancer are 50 or older. However, colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age.
- Personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer
If you had colon cancer or polyps, your changes are higher at colon cancer in future.
- Inflammatory Intestinal Conditions
Chronic colon diseases like Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease.
When to Seek Medical Care
Call your gastroenterologist for advice if any unexpected symptoms occur, including:
- Blood in stool
- Rectal Bleeding with or without pain
- Increased diarrhea or constipation
- Unintentional weight loss
- Severe Abdominal Pain
- Drastic changes in bowel pattern
- Persistent but minor bleeding
- Ongoing bloating and abdominal discomfort
We recommend going directly to the emergency room if the patient experiences any of the following:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Heavy bleeding from the anus (rectum)
Dr. Schneider is here to provide you with expert medical advice in the field of gastroenterology.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
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.