Cancers that affect the colon or the rectum are called colorectal cancer. The cancer can originate in the colon or the rectum.
The exact causes of colorectal cancer are unknown. Some studies do show that the following risk factors may increase the chances of developing colorectal cancer:
- Age: Colorectal cancer is more common in people over the age of 50 and/or have a family history of colon cancer.
- Diet: Diets that are high in fat and calories and low in fiber may be associated with colon cancer.
- Polyps: A polyp is a benign growth on the inner wall of the colon and rectum. Some types of polyps may increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Personal History: Research shows that women with a history of gynecological cancers have a somewhat increased chance of developing colorectal cancer. Someone who has already had colorectal cancer may develop the disease a second time.
- Family History: Immediate family members (parents, siblings, children) of a person who has had colorectal cancer are somewhat more likely to develop colorectal cancer themselves, especially if the relative had the cancer at a young age. If many relatives had colorectal cancer, the chances increase even more.
- Ulcerative Colitis: Ulcerative colitis is a condition in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed. Having this condition may increase the chance of developing colorectal cancer.
Common signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:
- A change in bowel habits
- Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Blood in the stool
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness and/or cramps)
- Weight loss with no known reason
- Constant fatigue
- There may be no occurrence of symptoms
Colorectal cancer or other conditions may cause these symptoms. It is important to check with a doctor.
Consult a physician to begin checking for colorectal cancer. A doctor can determine which tests are appropriate and how often to have them. The following tests can be used to detect polyps, cancer or other abnormalities, even when a person is not experiencing symptoms.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): The FOBT is a test used to check for blood in the stool.
- Sigmoidoscopy: An examination of the rectum and lower colon (sigmoid colon) using a lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope.
- Colonoscopy: An examination of the rectum and entire colon using a lighted instrument called a colonoscope.
- Double Contrast Barium Enema (DCBE): The DCBE involves a series of X-rays of the colon and rectum after the patient is given an enema with a solution that contains barium.
- Digital Rectal Exam: During a digital rectal examination, the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities.
* See below for a physician referral to schedule your screening today.
Follow this link for more information on the American Cancer Society's recommended screening guidelines.
Treatment depends mainly on the size, location and extent of the tumor and on the patient's overall health condition. Several different types of treatment can be used to treat colorectal cancer. Sometimes a doctor may decide to combine different treatment options.
- Surgery: Surgery to remove a tumor is the most commonly used treatment for colorectal cancer.
- Chemotherapy: The use of anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells is called chemotherapy.
- Radiation Therapy: Also called radiotherapy, radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Biological Therapy: Also called immunotherapy, biological therapy uses the body's immune system to fight cancer.
- Clinical Trials: Clinical trials may be utilized to evaluate new ways to treat cancer.
For physician referral, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).