Colorectal cancer, also described as colon cancer, is the fourth most common type of cancer. Colon cancer can be detected through a variety of tests, including regular cancer screening through colonoscopy and fecal blood test. If detected early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable using a variety of methods including radiation, surgery, and/or chemotherapy.
Risk Factors and Causes
Every person is at risk for colorectal cancer; however, there are factors that increase the chances. Every year, more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with the disease. Additionally, the majority of people who develop colorectal cancer have no known risk factors. For this reason, it’s important for everybody to be aware of what they can do to protect against this disease. There is no known cause of colorectal cancer, but there are factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. These risk factors include:
- Age – The older the person is the more likely they are to develop colorectal cancer. It’s most common in people over the age of 50, although, there is a chance that it can be developed by those in a younger age group.
- Gender – The overall risk is equal, but men are more likely to develop rectal cancer and women more likely to develop colon cancer.
- Personal History – Women who have a history of other types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian, are thought to have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Family History – If somebody in your family has developed colorectal cancer, your chances become much greater. If two or more family members have been diagnosed, the risk increases to approximately 20 percent.
- Diabetes – People who suffer from diabetes have up to a 40 percent increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Race – African men and women have the highest likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. Conversely, Asian Americans and Hispanics have the lowest chance.
- Lifestyle Factors – You may have an increased chance of developing this disease if you smoke, drink alcohol, are overweight, or do not get enough exercise.
As noted above, some people experience symptoms of colorectal cancer while others might not even know. Some of the most common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
- Changes in bowel movements, including regular diarrhea
- Dark blood in your stool
- Abdomen pain
- Loss of appetite often times accompanied by weight loss
- Pelvic pain
The most common screening routine for colorectal cancer is an annual rectal exam. Along with this, stool samples can be collected to test for traces of blood. A colonoscopy is also suggested every three to five years. This allows for a complete evaluation of both the colon and rectum.
There are five stages of both colon and rectum cancer.
- Stage 0 – The earliest stage of detection, and the easiest time at which to treat the cancer.
- Stage 1 – With this stage, the cancer has spread beyond the lining but has yet to go any further.
- Stage 2 – The tumor has moved through the muscular wall but has not reached the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3 – The cancer has spread outside the area to one or more lymph node.
- Stage 4 – The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver.
The long term prognosis of somebody with colorectal cancer depends on the stage in which it was diagnosed. Those with stage 0 cancer can be treated quickly as a means of ensuring the problem doesn’t get worse. In the later stages of colorectal cancer, more advanced treatment is necessary, including chemotherapy and radiation. Prognosis depends greatly on whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Your medical team can help determine how to improve your prognosis, based on your current level of health and the stage of your cancer. In late stages, doctors may not be able to do much to cure the problem, but they can ease the symptoms through a variety of treatment options. Throughout your treatment your doctor will frequently evaluate the efficacy of your treatment plan while keeping an eye for growth or spreading of cancer cells.
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