What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the colon and rectum. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States and is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. When caught early, colorectal cancer can be highly treatable. However, it is important to be aware of the risks and symptoms so that it can be treated quickly and effectively.

Causes and Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer

The exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, but certain factors can increase your risk. These include:

  • Age: Colorectal cancer is more common in individuals over the age of 50.
  • Diet: A diet high in red and processed meats is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese is linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Genetics: Certain inherited genetic conditions can increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoke may increase your risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Family History: Your risk of colorectal cancer is increased if immediate family members have had colorectal cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

Early signs of colorectal cancer may not always be obvious, so it’s important to be aware of the following symptoms:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Anemia

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Regular screenings are a critical part of early detection for colorectal cancer. It is recommended that individuals aged 45 and over get screened regularly. There are various types of screenings, including colonoscopies, flexible sigmoidoscopies, and fecal occult blood tests. Your doctor can help you determine which screening type is best for you.

Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the stage and severity of your cancer. Your doctor may recommend surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these treatments. Your doctor can discuss all of your treatment options with you to determine the best option for your specific situation.