What is Colon and Rectal Cancer?

Colon and rectal cancer begins when cells in the inner lining of the colon, or large intestine, become abnormal and grow out of control. When this happens, they can spread to other parts of the body, including the skin, liver, and other organs.

In the United States, about 150,000 people develop colorectal cancer each year. The cancer is less common in other parts of the world, but it’s also more deadly.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

It’s not always possible to detect colorectal cancer early. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Frequent stools or diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can run tests to determine whether you have colorectal cancer.

Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer

Your doctor will perform a physical exam. They’ll also ask you about your symptoms and medical history. If your doctor suspects that you have colorectal cancer, they will order a colonoscopy.

During a colonoscopy, they’ll use a long, flexible tube with a camera attached to it. They’ll place the endoscope into your rectum and colon. This will allow them to look for signs of colorectal cancer.

If your doctor sees any abnormalities, they’ll likely recommend a colonoscopy to take a closer look at the inside of your colon. This can help them detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is the most common test for colorectal cancer. It allows your doctor to see your colon. Sometimes, they may need to remove a small piece of tissue to obtain a sample. The sample will then be analyzed in a lab.

If there’s a chance that colorectal cancer has spread, they may perform a biopsy and remove a piece of the suspicious tissue. This tissue sample will be sent to a lab for analysis.

If you’re diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a CT scan. A CT scan uses X-rays to create a detailed picture of your organs.

Treatments for Colorectal Cancer

Once your doctor determines that you have colorectal cancer, they’ll recommend a treatment plan.

Surgery

If you have colorectal cancer, your doctor will recommend surgery. This is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. It involves removing the cancerous tissue and some of the surrounding healthy tissue.

In some cases, the cancerous tissue may be removed through a laparoscopic surgery. This procedure is done through small incisions instead of a larger one.

Stent placement

If you have colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend that you have a stent placed in your colon. A stent is a small, hollow tube that’s inserted into your colon. It helps to divert any excess fluid from your colon.

If you have colorectal cancer that hasn’t spread, you may be able to have a stent placed without surgery.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is often used if your doctor can’t remove the cancer through surgery.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of radiation to kill cancer cells. This treatment is often used when chemotherapy can’t be used.

Chemoradiation therapy

Chemoradiation therapy is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It’s used to treat colorectal cancer that can’t be removed by surgery.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment that boosts your immune system. According to the National Cancer Institute, immunotherapy is an option for people who have colorectal cancer that has spread.

What Is the Prognosis?

According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer has a five-year relative survival rate of 53 percent. This means that 53 percent of people with colorectal cancer will live for at least five years after their diagnosis.

Colorectal cancer is generally considered to be more deadly than other types of cancer. However, the relative survival rate of colorectal cancer is improving.

The prognosis for colorectal cancer is good if the cancer is caught early. In fact, the survival rate is better if it’s caught early.

The five-year relative survival rate for colorectal cancer is:

  • 90 Percent if the cancer is found and treated before it spreads
  • 66 Percent if the cancer is found and treated after it has spread

The prognosis for colorectal cancer is also good if you have a high grade of the cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, this is when the cancer is more likely to spread.

High-grade colorectal cancer is:

  • Invasive
  • Non-invasive
  • Microsatellite stable

If your cancer is low grade, it’s considered to be:

  • Microsatellite instability-low (MSI-low)
  • MSI-high
  • Microsatellite stable (MSS)

How Is Colorectal Cancer Diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. They’ll run tests to determine whether colorectal cancer is the cause of your symptoms.

Tests to detect colorectal cancer include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Imaging tests
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsies
  • Endoscopy

How Is Colorectal Cancer Treated?

Once you’re diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan.

In most cases, surgery is the first course of treatment. Your doctor will remove the cancerous tissue. They’ll then place an ostomy bag or pouch over your stoma. This is the opening that the cancerous tissue used to connect to your bowel.

Your doctor will also remove any cancerous tissue that may be present. This may be done through a laparoscopic procedure (smaller incisions).

Your doctor will likely recommend chemotherapy if colorectal cancer hasn’t spread. Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. It’s typically given through an intravenous (IV) line.

Now over to you

If you’re having symptoms of colorectal cancer, or have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor can help you find treatment options that will help you

If you are a healthcare professional, you can also read about the latest treatment options for colorectal cancer.

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