Categories: Cancer

Colorectal Cancer: What is it, Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Colorectal cancer is the formation of cancer cells in the bowel and rectum. It is also known as colon cancer and rectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly caused by cancer. One in twenty-one men and one in twenty-three women develop this condition in their lifetime.

Both men and women are equally susceptible to develop this condition equally. However, men are more likely to do it earlier when compared to women.

The digestive system helps in digesting the consumed food and converting it into absorbable energy. The digested food is sent through the small and large intestines where useful nutrients, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, proteins and other vitamins are absorbed from the digested food and the waste by-product is sent through the large intestines and out of the body through the rectum or the anus.

When a person is infected by bowel cancer, there is a malignant development of cancer cells in the large intestines or near the rectum.

What Are the Causes of Rectal Cancer:

These factors can put you at risk of developing this disease:

  • Smoking
  • Consuming smoked meat
  • Consuming more than 3 alcoholic refreshments a day
  • Obesity
  • Genetic factors
  • Ethnicity and
  • Gender

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

The symptoms of colon cancer are:

  • Sudden loss of appetite
  • Sudden bloating
  • Feeling fatigued constantly
  • Constantly feeling nauseous
  • Diarrhoea
  • Blood in stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Change in bowel movements
  • Iron deficiency

Diagnosing rectal cancer:

Most symptoms of rectal cancer are synonymous with our forms of abdominal problems or cancers, thus making it difficult for patients to self-diagnose the condition or for the consulting medical practitioner to consider them as underlying conditions and not symptoms of rectal cancer.

With a series of condition-specific tests, rectal cancer can be diagnosed. They are:

Physical exams:

In this, a thorough medical history of the patient is taken, which includes their recreational habits. Post that, a physical exam is conducted to check for the formation of any forms of lumps in the colon.

Rectal Exam:

In this, a trained medical nurse/doctor inserts his/her finger, which is covered, protected by a lubricated glove into the anus to check for unusual growth.

Colonoscopy:

In this, a small tube that is attached with a lens and a bulb is sent through the anus into the colon. This enables the doctor to look for any lumps in the rectal cavity. Colonoscopy is also used to determine the exact location of a cancerous tumour and get a first level stage identification.

Biopsy:

In a biopsy, a small piece of the tumour is examined under the microscope to understand the composition of the malignancy. Depending on the formation, a treatment plan is recommended.

Treating rectal cancer:

The treatment options for colorectal cancer depends on the location of the cancerous tumour, the size, and if the tumour has spread to various nearby parts of the body.

The most commonly used treatment options are:

Surgery:

If the size of the tumour is small and inside the walls, colon polypectomy is performed to remove it. It is mostly done as a part of a colonoscopy. 

If the tumour is in the wall of the rectum, the tumour and some healthy tissue around the area is removed to prevent any leftover cancer cells from coming back.

Resection, Radiofrequency, Cryosurgery, and pelvic exenteration are other major surgical methods of treatment used for cases with colorectal cancer.

Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy is used to weaken and kill the cancerous cells in the body. Chemotherapy is also used before surgery to shrink the tumour, thereby making it easy to operate on. Chemotherapy is also used after surgery to eliminate any leftover weakened cells that the surgeon might have missed during the surgery.

Radiation therapy:

In radiation therapy, high doses of energy beams are projected onto the body to battle the disease. Depending on the stage at which the patient is treated, radiation therapy is either used as a treatment or as a method to manage the symptoms.

Immunotherapy:

In immunotherapy, the immune system of the body is boosted to kill the cancerous cells naturally. Sometimes these boosts are from materials extracted from the body and sometimes these are artificially harvested in a laboratory.

In this, certain PD-L1 protein cells on the cancerous cells attach themselves to other cells, thereby making them invisible to the immune system of the body. Using certain inhibitors, the immune system will be able to detect these cancerous cells and attack them effectively.

Other treatment options for colorectal cancer include targeted therapy, Active surveillance methods, and clinical trials.

Dr. Ashwinikumar Kudari, Senior Consultant – Gastroenterology – Surgical, Robotic Surgery | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra

Narayana Health

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