Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer affects the large intestine and the pathway connecting the colon and anus.  In most cases, this sort of cancer starts with some abnormal growths, referred to as polyps, that are initially benign but that can become cancerous over time.  These clumps often cause no symptoms but need to be removed before becoming malignant.

Screening helps detect them at an early stage.  Gone undetected and without early screening, colorectal cancer can spread abnormal cells over time into the bloodstream, spreading cancer to other places.  Smoking and a consistently poor diet high in fats along with lacking in essential nutrients can be contributing factors.

What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Possible signs of colorectal cancer could include persistent ongoing stomach pains, cramping, weakness, fatigue, a consistent heavy bloated feeling in the abdominal area, gas and gas-related pains, a sudden unexplainable decrease in weight, the appearance of blood in stools and significant changes in bowel movement habits such as constipation and straining.

These kinds of symptoms are too-often ignored by people and passed off as something minor without seeking medical intervention. If they’re are persistent you should see your doctor right away.

Colorectal Cancer Causes

Colorectal cancer occurs when cells grow and divide at an abnormal rate. Researchers are not 100 percent sure why this occurs with colorectal cancer, but there are some factors that tend to be in place in those who do develop this cancer.

Doctors are fairly certain that some colorectal cancer is genetic in origin. People with certain genetic diseases such as Lynch syndrome, Gardner syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome have a high incidence of colorectal cancer.

Men who are significantly overweight and have an above average waistline seem to be especially prone to the development of colorectal cancer. A sedentary lifestyle also is a contributing factor in cancer development.

It appears that one’s diet is a possible cause of colorectal cancer. Eating a large amount of red meat is a risk factor as is eating large quantities of processed meats such as hot dogs and lunch meat.

In addition to these factors, smoking plays a role in these and many other cancers. Drinking heavily is also linked to the development of several cancers including colorectal cancer.

How is Colorectal Cancer Treated?

Early detection of colorectal cancer is critical to treatment.  Proper screening should begin around the age of fifty.  If there is significant history of Colorectal cancer within your family, your doctor may want you to be screened at an earlier age.  That screening could possibly start at the age of forty.  Early detection of colorectal cancer can result in swift treatment with often effective results.

Treatment includes

-Small polyps can be immediately removed during colonoscopy

Early stage cancer

-Early-stage colorectal cancer can be removed with minimally invasive surgery that may involve removing a small portion of the lining of the colon (endoscopic mucosal resection) or laparoscopic surgery.

Advanced stage cancer

-For advanced-stage, invasive cases the patient might need to undergo a partial colectomy (with or without a permanent or temporary colostomy) and lymph node removal .

Additional treatments for advanced colon and rectal cancer might include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted drug therapy.

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

It is not entirely possible to prevent the occurrence of colorectal cancer. However, there are ways to reduce the chances of the cancer occurring.

Those who are overweight should consult with their physician about starting a weight reduction program. Adding regular physical activity to one’s lifestyle will aid with weight reduction and help to prevent a multitude of physical problems.

A diet that limits the consumption of red meat and processed meats is also important. Adding servings of vegetables and fresh fruits will help with prevention. Especially important is making sure that the diet is rich in foods that contain folic acid and vitamin D as these are shown to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer.

While not a true preventative measure, it is important to undergo regular colorectal cancer screenings. These tests will help the doctor detect cancer at an early stage when there is a higher success rate for treatment.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
April 05, 2019
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