Colorectal Cancers

Colorectal Cancer: An Overview

Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the colon or rectum divide and grow out of control. Over time, these cells can form a tumor and spread to other parts of the body.

Most colorectal cancers are caused by lifestyle and environmental factors, such as smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables. It can also be linked to a family history.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

The early stages of colorectal cancer may not cause any obvious symptoms. As the cancer progresses, some common signs may include:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or frequent urge to have a bowel movement
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling weak or very tired

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important that you discuss them with your doctor. While these symptoms could be due to other conditions, they may be a sign of colorectal cancer.

Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer

Your doctor will use a variety of methods to diagnose colorectal cancer. This may include a physical exam, imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI, blood tests, and a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, a long flexible tube with a tiny camera at the end is inserted in the rectum. The doctor will look for any abnormalities, such as polyps or lesions, and may take a biopsy to test for cancer cells.

Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. Common treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of all three. Your doctor will be the best source of information on the best treatment option for your specific case.

Preventing Colorectal Cancer

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to make healthy lifestyle choices. This includes not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, limiting red and processed meats, exercising regularly, and getting regular screenings. Most people should begin getting screened for colorectal cancer at age 50, but some people may be advised to start earlier.