According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer begins with a polyp in the rectum or colon of your body. If the doctor can find and remove the polyp, the colorectal cancer can be prevented.
The colon and rectum are the parts of the digestive system. The rectum is located at the end of the digestive system.
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women suffer from colorectal cancer in their lifetime. It is important for you and your doctor to know the stage of cancer to get the best treatment options. It is best to be aware of the symptoms and know any family history of cancer.
Here are the causes, stages, symptoms and treatment of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms
Generally there are no symptoms during the start of the condition or at an early stage. If there are any, they may include:
Changes in colour of stool
Bleeding from the rectum
Blood in stool
Abdominal pain or cramps
Since the symptoms are more evident in the later stages of colorectal cancer, or when they spread to other parts of the body, they may include:
Colorectal Cancer: Causes & Risk Factors
The cause of colorectal cancer is not yet known. Though the genetic mutations which may be acquired or inherited can be a reason. The cancer cells may have been formed in the inner lining of the colon or rectum due to these mutations. The risk factors include:
A person older than 50 years is at a higher risk of colorectal cancer
If a person had any polyps or growth previously
If the person suffered from any bowel-related diseases.
If anyone from the family might have been affected by colorectal cancer
Regular smoking increases the risk of colorectal cancer
Obesity or overweight increases the chances of colorectal cancer
Increase in intake of processed foods puts you at a risk of colorectal cancer
Type-2 diabetes or sedentary lifestyle
Colorectal Cancer: Stages
At stage 0, the cancer cells may be limited only to the inner lining of the rectum and colon. There might be no symptoms and it might be difficult to diagnose it too.
At stage 1, the cancer cells may have entered the lining of the rectum or colon, attacking the mucosa or muscular layer but not reached the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
At stage 2, the cancer cells may have attacked the walls of colon or rectum and the nearby tissues without extending till the lymph nodes.
At stage 3, the cancer cells begin to attack the lymph nodes but not to other organs as of yet.
Stage 4 is the last stage and at this stage the cancer begins to affect the other parts of the body as well.
Colorectal Cancer: Diagnosis
According to the American College of Physicians, a person between the age of 50 to 75 must have regular screenings as suggested by the doctor to prevent colorectal cancer or treat it at an early stage.
First,the doctor may examine you physically, discuss about your family history and ask if you have any symptoms. They may test for any polyps or abnormal growths around your abdomen or rectum.
Doctor may recommend you to take fecal testing every 1 or 2 years to look for any hidden blood in the stool. There are two types of fecal tests: fecal immunochemical test and guaiac fecal occult blood test.
Your doctor may recommend blood tests to know the cause of symptoms, these may be signs for other liver related disease or undiagnosed health conditions as well.
Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure in which the last part of the colon known as sigmoid colon is examined with a flexible tube with a tube at the end to check for any abnormalities.
Colonoscopy is a test which you might have to undergo if the doctor feels there are chances of you suffering from colorectal cancer. It uses a tube with a camera at the end to examine the rectum and colon. The doctor may even scrape off the tissue for the abnormal area and send it to the laboratory for testing.
X-ray and CT scan are the other ways to diagnose colorectal cancer in a person.
Colorectal Cancer: Treatment
Surgery may be an option for treatment if the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. The doctor will remove the mass of cells or polyps that can become cancerous. It may also involve removing a part of the colon or rectum if the cells are attached to the bowel walls.
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for cancer in which drugs are injected or taken orally to kill the cancer cells. But in case of colorectal cancer, chemotherapy is used after a surgery to kill any cancer cells that may be hidden or lingering around. The side effects of chemotherapy may require extra medications.
Radiation therapy can be used along with the chemotherapy. It is used both before and after the surgery. It involves using a beam of X-rays to kill the cancerous cells directly.
Colorectal Cancer: Prevention
Colorectal cancer can be caused due to various reasons including genetics or medical history but a few changes in the diet and lifestyle can prevent the cancer. Prevention tips include:
Avoid eating red meat or processed meat
Avoid dietary fats
Eat plant based foods
Control alcohol consumption
Manage your stress and blood sugar levels