Colorectal cancer includes both cancers of the colon and of the rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps, which are abnormal growths of tissue cells. Normally these polyps are benign, but over time they can develop into cancer. Colorectal cancer is actually the third most common type of cancer in men and women.
Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer
The exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, but there are a few risk factors that increase your chances:
- Increased Age
- Family history
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Patients with colorectal cancer may not experience any symptoms at all. But if they do the most common symptoms include:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that becomes chronic
- A constant feeling of having to pass a bowel movement, but it doesn't get go away
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Blood in the stool. This doesn't mean only seeing blood, but could mean unusually dark stool (which is caused from the blood)
- Cramping or abdominal/stomach pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
The most common form of screening for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is a direct visual examination of the inside lining of the colon (large intestine) with a lighted flexible tube. Most colon cancers arise from within non-cancerous tumors (polyps) that have been growing for more than five to ten years. Polyps cause no symptoms so it's important to get screened after the age of 50.
Surgical Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
Surgery is the main treatment for colorectal cancer. Depending on how the cancer has spread, different surgeries are used. Either way, surgery to cure both colon and rectal cancer usually involve the same procedures, but can sometimes vary.
Polypectomy - This is a very common type of procedure done in the early stages of the cancer. Cancerous polyps of the colon or rectum can be detected and even removed during a colonoscopy.
Local Excision - This procedure usually treats cancer of the rectum. Depending on the case, it can be done through the anus or an incision in the rectum. This is done when part of the tissue wall has developed cancer, so your surgeon will remove the cancer and some surrounding tissue from the rectum.
Colon Resection (Colectomy) - This is commonly done in more later stages of cancer or when cancer develops directly on the tissue wall of the colon. A colon resection involves removing a part of sometimes all of the colon and attached tissues to the cancer.
Minimally Invasive Laparoscopic Surgery - Through a few incisions, your surgeon will be able to look inside of your abdominal cavity with small scopes. Small instruments are used to remove cancerous tissue through these small incisions and leave minimal scarring and recovery time.
In some severe cases, tissue from surrounding organs are affected. After the surgery to treat the cancer, some additional surgery may be needed to repair lost tissue or make up for lack thereof. For specific procedure plans, have a consultation with your surgeon to see what is necessary for your case.