What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer, often referred to as colon cancer, begins in the large intestine. This cancer often begins as benign polyps outside of the colon, which become malignant over time.
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Symptoms often do not appear until there has been disease progression. When they do appear, possible symptoms of this cancer include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool
- A persistent change in bowel habits
- The feeling of bowels that do not empty completely
What causes colorectal cancer?
For the most part, medical professionals are unsure as to what causes colorectal cancer. They only know that the DNA of certain cells mutate, making them multiply and divide out of control to form a tumor.
Risk factors include being of African-American descent, old age (over 50), a family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory intestinal conditions, a personal history of cancer and/or polyps, inherited syndromes that increase the risk of cancer, obesity, smoking, a diet that is low in fiber and high in fat, diabetes, alcohol, prior radiation treatment, and an inactive lifestyle.
How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?
If you know that you live with a heightened risk of colorectal cancer, it is important to get regular screenings. These give the best chance for an early diagnosis.
If screening is not conducted, then doctors will look for the characteristic signs and symptoms of the cancer. They will then perform blood tests and a colonoscopy. CT scans may be used to stage one’s disease.
What are the treatments for colorectal cancer?
If your cancer has been caught in the early stages, treatment options consist of endoscopic mucosal resection, polypectomy, and laparoscopic surgery. For those whose cancer has progressed, doctors may use a partial colectomy, lymph node removal, and minimally invasive surgery to create a way for waste to leave the body. Lastly, advanced cancer patients may undergo surgery to improve quality of life or relieve symptoms. For all stages, doctors may prescribe chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.