Colorectal cancer is a very common type of cancer for men and women. It is also referred to as colon cancer, though colorectal cancer is the full name for the cancer. For men, colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, second only to prostate cancer. Colorectal cancer is also common in women, just behind breast cancer. Colorectal cancer is started by an irregular cell growth in the colon in the large intestine, which is located near the rectum. While colorectal cancer is the most common type of cancer to affect the colon, it is not the only type. Carcinoid tumors, lymphoma and melanoma can also cause cancer of the colon. A large amount of cancer related deaths in the United States are caused by colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Causes of Colorectal Cancer
The exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown though there are some risk factors that could raise the risk of getting this type of cancer. Risk factors include being African American, being over the age of 60, eating a fatty diet of processed meat and red meat, having a family history of colon cancers, having cancer in another part of your body, having recovered from breast cancer, having colorectal polyps, or having an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There are also some genetic syndromes that raise the risk for colorectal cancer including Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch Syndrome.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
The majority of colorectal cancer cases don’t show symptoms that might relate to this type of cancer. However occasionally you might get some types of signs that hint toward cancer, such as blood in your stool, narrow stools, lower abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, significant weight loss, or other bowel changes.
Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer
A number of tests will be performed by your doctor in order to determine the cause of any symptoms you have and find out if you have colorectal cancer. They start with an abdominal exam to find masses in your abdomen along with a rectal exam. Your stool samples might also be tested which will look for blood in your stool, in a test called the fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Additional tests you might take for diagnosing colorectal cancer are an MRI, CT scan, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and various blood tests. When diagnosing your cancer, it will be given a stage from 0-4 with the later stages being more severe as it signifies the cancer spreading to other organs.
Treating Colorectal Cancer
To treat colorectal cancer, doctors will usually begin with surgery to remove cancerous cells from the colon, followed by chemotherapy for removing any cancer cells that still remain and radiation therapy for destroying cancerous tissue and stop it from returning.