Cancer that begins either in the rectum or the colon is called colorectal cancer. The features of these two types of cancer are similar, hence they are discussed together.
If you have one or more of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from colorectal cancer:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood in stool
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Frequently feeling full or bloated
- Suffering from gas pains or cramps often
- Feeling of bowel not being fully emptied
- Narrower than normal stools
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pelvic pain, which occurs in the later stage of the disease
In the initial stages of colorectal cancer, there may not be any symptoms. Thus, regular screening should be done to catch the condition. People aged over 50 years should be periodically screened.
There is no particular known cause of colorectal cancer.
Risk Factors And Complications
There are some factors that put you at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer:
- Family history of colon cancer, particularly if several relatives have suffered from the disease
- Diet consisting of high quantities of fat and red meat
- Too much smoking and consumption of alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Suffering from diabetes
- Carry conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome
Tests And Diagnosis
There are a few screening tests for colorectal cancer:
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT): This can be done at home and the test is meant to check for traces of blood in stool samples.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (Flex Sig): A thin tube is inserted into the colon or the rectum to look for cancerous tissue. The specific area covered is the bottom third of the colon.
- Patients take an enema to clear the bottom of the colon before the test is done.
- Usually, no sedation is required.
- Colonoscopy: This test is performed in a similar manner as that of Flex Sig, with the exception that the entire colon is covered.
- Before the procedure is done, patients are asked to stay on a clear liquid diet and consume a medicine that helps clear bowels.
- Anesthesia is commonly used during the procedure.
- A thin, 6-foot-long tube is used to blow air into the colon and look for tumors in the folds of the colon.
Depending on the stage and how far the disease has progressed, the following types of treatments are done.
- Stage 0, Stage I, and early stage II colon cancers – colectomy
- Stage III and some Stage II colon cancer – postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy
- Stage II – chemotherapy with multi-drug therapy (includes 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, and CapeOx)
- Advanced stage or recurring disease – radiation therapy
Alternative treatments are also tried to treat or cure cancer, although there is no proof that these methods work. However, for many patients, the quality of life is improved.
Meditation, exercise, dance, music, and art are advised to reduce the stress of getting treated for cancer and improve the patient’s appetite and mood.
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