What is Colon and Rectal Cancer?
- Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start.
- Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
What Causes Colon and Rectal Cancer?
- Older age. The great majority of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50.
Colon cancer can occur in younger people, but it occurs much less frequently.
- African-American race. African-Americans have a greater risk of colon cancer than do people of other races.
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you’ve already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
- Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk. Genetic syndromes passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon cancer.
- Family history of colon cancer. You’re more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in fiber and high in fat and calories.
- A sedentary lifestyle. If you’re inactive, you’re more likely to develop colon cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes and insulin resistance may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
- Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
- Smoking. People who smoke may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
- Alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol may increase your risk of colon cancer.
- Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers may increase the risk of colon cancer.
Symptoms of Colon and Rectal Cancer
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in the stool, which may make it look dark
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Treatment of Colon and Rectal Cancer
There are several ways to treat colorectal cancer, depending on its type and stage.
- Surgery (the type of surgery will depend on whether it is for colon or rectal cancer)
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
For advanced colon and rectal cancer, ablation or embolization may also be used.
Links to some studies regarding Colon and Rectal Cancer
- Guidelines 2000 for Colon and Rectal Cancer Surgery
- Body size and risk of colon and rectal cancer in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC)