Colon and Rectal Cancers

What are colorectal cancers?

Colorectal cancers originate in the colon or rectum and the two cancers have a lot in common with the exception of some differences in treatment. These cancers are unique in that they virtually always start as a polyp. The non-cancerous polyp changes as years go by, becoming pre-malignant then malignant.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancers?

Often times the symptoms of colorectal cancers indicate other conditions such as an infection, irritable bowel syndrome, or hemorrhoids. Colorectal cancers can cause the following symptoms:

  • A change in bowel habits: diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

What are the risk factors and causes of colorectal cancer?

There are several risk factors for colorectal cancer that you can't change such as age (your chances of developing cancer increase as you get older), personal history of colon health, inflammatory bowel diseases, family history, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), turcot syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, and MUTYH-associated polyposis. In addition to these factors certain ethnic groups are at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer and people with Type-2 diabetes are also at an increased risk.

In addition to these factors there are some lifestyle factors that you can change to decrease your risk:

  • Improve your diet: diets high in fat, red meat, processed meat, fried foods might increase your risk for developing colorectal cancer.
  • Be more active: sedentary lifestyles can increase your risk.
  • Obesity raises your risk of colon cancer
  • Smoking raises your risk of developing cancer
  • Heavy alcohol use increases your risk of developing cancer

How is colorectal cancer treated and diagnosed?

Your physician will use a variety of diagnostic tests including imaging tests, blood tests, and biopsies to diagnose colorectal cancer.

Treatment plans for colorectal cancer will use a variety of factors including your lifestyle, type and stage of cancer. Treatment for colorectal cancer might include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and the use of targeted therapies.