Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. This year, it is estimated that there will be over 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and over 40,000 cases of rectal cancer.
Where does colorectal cancer start?
Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as a growth in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These small growths are called polyps.
Not all polyps are considered cancerous. Hence, doctors look into the type of polyps one has in the colon or rectal lining to determine the cancer risk. In many cases, it’s the adenomatous polyps that cause cancer over time.
There are other things about the polyp that would also determine one’s risk. There is a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer if:
- the polyp is larger than 1 cm when it is found
- if more than 2 polyps are found
- if there’s an area in the polyp or lining of the colon or rectum where the cells are abnormal
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
If you experience any of the following, it’s best to see a specialist immediately:
- a change in bowel habits (i.e. constipation or diarrhea lasting for several days)
- blood in the stool
- constant urge to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- cramping or abdominal pain
- unintentional weight loss
- weakness and fatigue
Can you prevent colorectal cancer?
There’s no sure way of preventing colorectal cancer but there are ways to lower your risk:
- Get screened
Colorectal cancer screening is one of the best ways to prevent or have better prognosis for colorectal cancer. Like many types of cancer, colorectal cancer can easily be treated when detected early.
If you’re age 45 or older, you should start getting screened for colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor for the most suitable option for you.
- Maintaining a healthy weight
Having more belly fat increases your risk of colorectal cancer especially if you’re a male. Having a regular physical activity and well-balanced diet can lower your risk.
- Quitting smoking
If you’re a smoker, you have a higher risk of developing colorectal and other types of cancer.
How is colorectal cancer treated?
Treatment for colorectal cancer varies, depending on the size, location, and how far the cancer has spread. Most common treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.