Colon & Rectal Cancer

Excluding skin cancers, the American Cancer Society suggests that colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the United States. Colon and Rectal CancerThese are the estimated statistics their 2012 studies found:

  • 103,170 new cases of colon cancer
  • 40,290 new cases of rectal cancer
  • 51,690 deaths from colorectal cancer

With staggering statistics like these, the threat of colon and rectal cancer is real. Thanks to medical advancements, screenings can help detect these types of cancer earlier than in the past, reducing the number of fatalities due to colorectal cancer. Major progress can be made in regards to treatment when cancer is caught in its early stages.

Colon and Rectal Cancer Symptoms

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the colon, rectum or both simultaneously. The signs of colon and rectal cancer are similar. Due to the individual nature of each patient, certain symptoms are more prominent than others, and some people experience little to no signs of colorectal cancer in its early stages. Symptoms also have a tendency to appear differently based on the size and location of the cancer.

These are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer:

  • Changes in normal bowel routine – this could involve diarrhea, a change in stool consistency, a sense that the bowel does not fully empty, or constipation
  • The presence of blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Painful gas, cramps or tenderness surrounding the abdomen
  • Sudden weight-loss without explanation
  • A constant feeling of weakness and fatigue
  • An urgency to go to the bathroom

If you sense the possibility of cancer in your own body, or someone that you love, it is best to consult a physician as soon as possible. Though some of these symptoms can indicate other conditions, it is worth finding out for certain, as early detection can prove vital for treatment.

Colon and Rectal Cancer Risk Factors

In general, the direct cause of colon and rectal cancer remains uncertain, but there are some factors that place you at a higher risk. A few of the risk factors are inevitable, like age or family history, while others can be modified by simple lifestyle changes.

The following list contains risk factors highlighted by the American Cancer Society:

  • After the age of 50, your chances of developing colon cancer increase significantly. Nine out of ten people suffering from colon cancer are over the age of 50.
  • An extensive family history of bowel disease does increase your risk but also provides you with the heads up to be aware from the start.
  • A family history of colorectal cancer speaks for itself.
  • The presence of polyps in the colon can heighten your risk of developing colon and rectal cancer.
  • Race and ethnicity can affect your odds of having colon cancer. Some African Americans and Jews from a specific part of eastern Europe have a higher risk.
  • People with Type II Diabetes have a higher risk of colon cancer.
  • A diet that is high in processed meats and red meat can increase your risk of colon or rectal cancer.
  • Being overweight can greatly contribute to your chances of developing colon or rectal cancer.
  • Smoking increases your risk for developing many different types of cancer.
  • Consumption of alcohol has been linked to colon cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.

Treatment for Colon and Rectal Cancer

Treatment for colon or rectal cancer may vary greatly depending on the location of the cancer and how long it has been present. Colon and Rectal Cancer TreatmentsWith the right physician and an excellent treatment plan, the process of eradicating cancer can be much easier.

Typically treatment falls under the umbrella of four different treatment options:

Surgery – Often treatment begins with the removal of the cancerous tissues, but if the cancer has spread and cannot be removed completely, a surgical option may not be explored further. Some surgeries are less invasive and can be performed laparoscopically.

Radiation therapy – This type of treatment is often used post-surgery to kill any other remaining cancer cells. Rarely is radiation therapy used in early-stage cancer.

Chemotherapy– Chemo might be used as a primary form of treatment but can also be used as a follow-up treatment to help control tumor growth.

Targeted therapies – There are certain types of biological therapies that target cancer cells directly. This type of therapy can be used singularly or coupled with chemotherapy. This type of therapy is sometimes used for patients suffering from late-stage cancer.

It is important to talk with your doctors and decide which type of treatment option is most suitable for your situation. Going through cancer is an indescribably difficult experience but with proper care, recover is made possible. Be sure and ask about the latest advancement in medical treatment options regarding colorectal cancer.

Steps to Prevention

While some individuals experience unchangeable factors like family history and age, others can take gradual steps to modify their lifestyle in order to prevent the presence or spread of cancer.

Here are some ways that you can take action and prevent colon and rectal cancer:

Screening – If you have a family history that is predisposed to bowel disease, then be proactive and set up an appointment for a colon cancer screening as soon as possible. There are several screening options available and depending on your age and ethnic background, you may be eligible for screening earlier than other individuals.

Diet – Begin modifying your diet by incorporating a large variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A diet that is rich in fiber and high in antioxidants provides the body with more energy and nutrients to help fight off cancer.

Smoking – By abstaining from smoking you are doing your body a great service. Smoking greatly contributes to causing many different types of cancer.

Exercise – Make a conscious effort to exercise at least 30 minutes a couple times per week. If you have been living a relatively inactive lifestyle, be sure and ease in slowly as not to cause injury.

Weight – For some, a healthy weight simply comes naturally, but for others, it requires a specific plan for eating and exercising. Do your best to maintain a healthy weight and contact your doctor immediately if you experience and unexplained sudden weight loss.

Surgery – If you have been experiencing a long family history of inherited syndromes or inflammatory bowel disease, it is possible that a doctor may recommend the removal of part of your colon or rectum to prevent the spread of cancer.

Coping with Colon and Rectal Cancer

Coping with a recent diagnosis of cancer can be heartbreaking and draining. You might feel so overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to begin. The good news is with the right care plan, quality health care and positive emotional support, your journey is less daunting.

Here are some ways to alleviate the stress of coping with cancer:

Seek support – It is important to surround yourself with people who encourage you mentally, emotionally and physically. Going through cancer completely changes your life. By having a strong support system in place, you will feel less like you are walking this road alone. There are many ways to connect with others: you can join a support group, talk with other survivors, or contact others through online communities.

Remain educated – Take time to do research and speak with your doctors regarding your care. Visit your local library or stay informed through reputable websites online. Find out all you can about the latest treatments, current research and natural remedies regarding colon and rectal cancer.

Reduce stress – The stress that your body is put through during cancer treatments can be exhausting. Try the best you can to reduce any aspects of your life that might contribute even more tension to your already intense situation. Remember to eat healthy foods, exercise frequently and rest when needed. Do not overload yourself with too many activities at once and take time to do the things you love.

Colon and Rectal Cancer Resources

Colon Cancer Alliance
1025 Vermont Ave. NW, Suite 1066
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 628-0123

Fight Colorectal Cancer
1414 Prince Street, Suite 204
Alexandria, VA 22314

Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada
1350 Rue Sherbrooke West, Suite 300
Montréal, Quebec
Canada H3G 1J1

American Cancer Society
PO Box 22718
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


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