Cancer of the Colon and Rectum

Risk factors for developing Colon and rectal cancer?

Many risk factors have been identified that increase the chance of getting colorectal cancer. These risk factors are neither necessary nor sufficient to cause colorectal cancer alone. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include the following:

  • Age: The chance of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older
  • Heredity: The risk is high if you have a personal or a family history of colonic polyps or cancer of colon, Rectum, breast or Ovary
  • Chronic Intestinal diseases: If you have a personal history of chronic ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease for eight years or more
  • Lifestyle and Diet: occur more often in urban and industrialized regions. People Being obese, who exercise very little, are overweight are more prone. If your diet contains a higher fat and low fibers, you are likely to be at higher risk for colorectal cancer
  • Diabetes: Type 2 Diabetes mellitus increases the risk of developing a tumor in the large intestine

Symptoms of colorectal cancer

Majority of patients who get colorectal cancer have no symptoms especially in the early stages of the disease. When the symptoms begin to appear cancer may be in an advanced stage. The symptoms may vary from one patient to another depending on the size and location of the tumor within the colon or at a metastatic site distant from colon or rectum. Always consult your doctor if you have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in stool
  • Change in the bowel habits: Changed Motion (defecation) pattern (constipation or diarrhea for more than three weeks)
  • Anemia (A low Hemoglobin level or red blood cell count)
  • Severe, persistent or recurring Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Presence of a mass or lump in the abdomen
  • Unexplained Weight loss
  • Feeling tired or weak during physical activity

Early diagnosis and prevention of colorectal cancer

It is shown that cancer screening significantly reduces the risk of death from colorectal cancer. The screening program usually includes a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), and a colonoscopy for confirmation. Colorectal cancer may begin to develop during the period in between screening tests. It is essential to be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer and report these, in the period between screening tests.
There are many ways one can take to reduce the risk of colon cancer, by making some changes in the lifestyle. These include:

  • Regular Exercise, physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Low-fat and high fiber food: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Reduce saturated fat in the diet and increase the number of vitamins and minerals
  • Stop smoking

What treatment is available?

After all the tests are performed, and a definite diagnosis reached, your doctor will discuss with you the best treatment options available for you. One or more types of cancer treatments may well used; treatments that act on cancer locally such as surgery or radiotherapy, or treatments that work on the cancer cells systemically (all over the body) such as intravenous or oral chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Some patients may undergo only surgery (often in early stage) or combined therapies which may include:
Surgical treatment: Surgery is performed to remove part of the cancerous colon and depends on the location and size of the tumor. In patients with advanced disease, the operation may still be performed to relieve the obstruction, stop bleeding, repair perforation or remove metastatic lesions
Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy which is a local treatment uses high-energy rays from a machine located outside the body to destroy and kills cancer cells, prevent the spread of a tumor from its original site or slow down cancer growth. Radiotherapy in some patients used before surgery to shrink cancer (to make surgery more feasible), and in some used after surgery to eliminate the cancer cells that may remain in the affected area
Chemotherapy: It is the administration of a cytotoxic chemical drug to kill cancer cells which may be found in or outside the colon or rectum. It also prevents cancer spread. These drugs are given orally or intravenously. Chemotherapy may be often given after surgery to reduce the chance of cancer recurrence. It may be given as a major treatment if the disease has already spread to other parts of the body
Immunotherapy and Targeted therapy: It is a type of treatment that uses drugs using the immune system to target specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Immunotherapy and targeted therapy help the immune system to fight cancer better, with less harm to healthy cells and may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment.

Before taking any treatment, it is better to ask your doctor these questions?

  • Is my diagnosis confirmed?
  • What is the stage of my disease?
  • Why do I need this kind of treatment and what benefit I will get?
  • When will the treatment begin? What will be the intended duration of therapy? When will it stop?
  • How will I feel during treatment? What will be the possible side effects? How likely are these to happen?
  • Will the treatment have long-term side effects?
  • What side effects should I tell you when they appear?
  • What can I do to take care of myself during treatment?
  • Will I be able to continue my normal daily activities?