According to cancer.org, aside from skin cancer, colorectal cancer ranks as the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in the United States. Further, the American Cancer Society reports that there were over 100,000 new cases of colon cancer in 2019, which is in addition to over 44,000 new cases involving rectal cancer. Although no one is impervious to either of these cancers, the survival rate is reasonably good as long as they are detected early. For example, the 5-year survival rate for colon cancer is 14 percent, 67 percent for rectal cancer. It is also important to note that the survival rate of cancer diagnosed at a localized stage is even higher, typically in the neighborhood of 89 percent or better.
In this article, we will take a closer at the symptoms of colon cancer and treatments that are available.
Also referred to as colon cancer, colorectal cancer is cancer that impacts the large intestine, otherwise known as the final part of the digestive tract. In most cases, colorectal cancer starts off as adenomatous polyps. These polyps, initially, are benign; however, over time they become cancerous cells that attack the body.
In the early stages, these polyps tend to be small and are usually asymptomatic. Therefore, those who have developed this condition may not be aware of the problem until the polyps have become cancerous and symptoms become apparent. The best way to detect polyps and any other early signs of colorectal cancer is to undergo regular screening tests, which will enable physicians to identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous.
Once polyps have morphed into cancerous cells, most people will begin to experience a variety of symptoms including:
Similar to many other forms of cancer, the exact cause of colorectal cancer is not exactly clear; however, most physicians agree that the disease occurs whenever otherwise healthy cells develop errors in their DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which is the hereditary material found in all humans and most organisms.
To further illustrate this point, healthy cells grow and bifurcate to help keep the body functioning properly. However, when the DNA in these cells become either damaged or altered, they not only become cancerous but also continue to divide and form tumors. As colorectal cancer advances, it will begin to destroy healthy nearby tissue before metastasizing and ultimately affecting other areas of the body.
While the exact etiology of colorectal cancer is unclear, certain things can increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease including:
According to Robert Bresalier, M.D., professor of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center consuming a low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) every day can help lower your chances of developing colorectal cancer and other forms of cancer as well. However, taking aspirin daily can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding and even ulcers. As such, it is in your best interest to speak with your doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen. You can also reduce your chances of developing the disease by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
When it comes to colorectal cancer, the survival rate is higher if the disease is detected early, meaning it is a good idea to schedule regular cancer screening tests with your doctor. After all, the best defense is a good offense when it comes to cancer or any disease for that matter. However, if you’re experiencing any changes in bowel habits, bloody stool, or other symptoms that may suggest colorectal cancer, it is imperative that you schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. If you’re already seeing your doctor for your annual physical exam, this would be a great time to talk about your colorectal health, especially if you’re 50 and over. These conversations should entail ways to lower your risk of developing the disease and also scheduling regular screenings.
Colorectal cancer treatments can vary as there are several factors that go into outlining a treatment plan including how far the disease has progressed. Additional factors may include medications that you may already be taking, which could cause an adverse reaction when combined with those used to treat colorectal cancer. That said, some of the more common colorectal cancer treatments include:
If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it is a good idea to go over all of your treatment options with your physician so that you know what to expect as you work towards becoming cancer-free. For more information on cancer treatments and to learn more about the disease, consider visiting cancer.org.