Colon Rectal Cancer

Colon Rectal Cancer: Information, Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis. Colon Rectal Cancer, or colorectal cancer, is having disastrous effects worldwide. It is the third most common cancer in the Western world, 4th in the United States. It is also the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States and the rest of the Western world.

Colon Rectal Cancer attacks the large intestine and/or the rectum, two integral parts in the maintenance of normal bodily functions. This is due to the colon being storage for waste material of the digestive system with the rectum located at its end. It adjoins the anus, forming a long, muscular tube known as the large intestine or large bowel.

Tumours of the rectum refer to abnormal growths along the inner wall of the large intestine. Similarly, polyp is the term for benign tumours of the large intestine. Causing 655,000 deaths per year worldwide, colon cancer is believed to arise from adenomatous polyps in the bowel; these mushroom like growths are generally benign.

The predominance of colorectal cancer is primarily found in the Western world and far less common in Asia and Africa. This is due to Western diets leaving people more prone to such cancer.

Colon cancer is bereft symptoms unless in the advanced stages. Many organisations therefore recommend certain precautions such as fecal occult blood testing and colonoscopies. The disease usually starts as small, noncancerous clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps producing no symptoms at all, but which can be detected by these precautions.

Single or multiple polyps can cause either painless rectal bleeding or bleeding apparently invisible. The risk of cancer is heightened in polyps that have reached greater than 1 centimetre in size. Additionally, polyps with atypia or dysplasia may also move on to colon cancer. Cancer risk is again heightened in villous adenomas with 40% as compared to 15% in tubular adenomas.

The preliminary treatment for colon rectal cancer is surgery. However, dependant on the stage of the colon cancer in the individual patient, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be highly recommended.

Diet changes are often recommended particularly high fibre diets. High fibre foods serve as aid for waste to move faster through the digestive tract resulting in harmful substances having far less contact with the lining of the intestine. High fibre foods are also beneficial in the avoidance of other cancers as they are rich in phytonutrients. Calcium and vitamin D are also believed to help protect against colon cancer.

Debates are currently underway regarding the benefits of vitamin C or carotenoids such as antioxidants in the prevention and reduction of colon cancer. However, the fact remains that studies have been futile in their efforts to support these claims.

Those who drink alcohol should take extra precautions such as vegetables high in folate. Leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower give some protection against this cancer as they contain phytochemicals.

Colon rectal cancer is a dreadful disease but the effects may be negated and brought under control through the maintenance of a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Whether one has a family history of colorectal cancer in particular, or a personal medical history of a cancer, it’s believed that they have a higher rate of diagnosis with this disease than those who don’t.

Colon rectal cancer is classified as an adenocarcinoma cancer. This means that while the cancerous cells initially present as benign, given time they appear as adenomatous polyps lining the walls of the large intestine.

Some may turn malignant and metastasise to the surrounding lymph nodes and eventually the rest of the body. These malignant cells are what form tumours. Colon rectal cancer in its early stages does often not present with symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, the following symptoms are common:

  • Vomiting
  • Pelvis and abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhoea and/or constipation
  • Anaemia, fatigue and weight loss

Causes of Colon rectal cancer are understood to be associated to:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Exposure to human papilloma virus
  • A family or medical history of colon cancer
  • Age
  • Poor diet, including low fibre, low in grains and high in fat and red meat

Protection against colorectal cancer can be sought through:

  • Dietary improvements, including an increase in fibre, whole grains, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Physical exercise
  • Sufficient water intake

Diagnosis of colon rectal cancer is through a colonoscopy exam. Treatment is generally surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.