Causes, Symptoms, and Management of Colorectal Cancer
Cancer is one of the preeminent causes of death in the world. Being a dangerous and life-threatening illness that it is, research has still not been able to discover the appropriate drugs for its absolute cure and elimination. Yearly, cancer kills people in thousands, and only a few people survive it. Some people say cancer is not a death sentence, but since it would shorten one’s life span if one is not so fortunate to be a survivor, why not tag it a death sentence. It is better to avoid every form of lifestyle and activity that can increase your chances of developing cancer.
Though there are different types of cancers, with each identified by the organ of the human body it affects. The type of cancer that this article would be elaborating on is colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer can also be referred to as colon cancer. It is a combination of both colon and rectal cancer, hence the name colorectal. The colon is a part of the digestive system of the human body. It is otherwise known as the large intestine. A condition whereby cancerous cells grow and develop in this area of the body is termed colon cancer. Colorectal cancer springs in the colon or rectum, both of which are at the ending part of the digestive system. The body draws out water and salt from solid wastes in the large intestine. Then the solid waste is transported from the large intestine to the rectum, where it is passed out through the anus.
According to research, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer and is one of the most prevalent causes of cancer deaths. This is why professional medical practitioners advise that upon getting to the age of 50, you should have a regular health screening for colon cancer. Although colon cancer occurs at any age, it is more common amongst older adults.
Colorectal cancer starts out as a small lump of cells formed in the colon. These cells are known as polyps. As time goes on, they develop and grow into colon cancer cells. These polyps cells produce little or no symptoms at all. This is why it is important to go for regular medical check-ups to identify these cancerous cells early enough and prevent them from developing into cancerous cells.
When polyps develop into colon cancer, some treatment methods can be administered to combat it. These methods involve surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy.
There are different stages of colorectal cancer, and they include;
- Stage 0; here, the cells are still tiny and unnoticeable. They exist within the lining of the colon. This stage is called the carcinoma in situ stages.
- Stage 1; the cancerous cells now leave the lining of the colon and develop outside the lining and migrates into the muscle tissues. At this point, its tendency to spread to other parts of the body begins to increase.
- Stage 2; the cancerous cells at this point have reached the colon and rectum walls but have not gotten to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3; this stage of cancer confirms that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes but not further to other parts of the body.
- Stage 4; is the deadliest part of colorectal cancer. At this grade, cancer has spread to other organs of the body, like the kidney and the liver.
Types of Colorectal Cancer
The major and most common type of colon cancer is adenocarcinomas. Some other kinds of colon cancers are caused by some tumors like;
- Lymphomas; this kind of colon cancer forms in the colon or lymph nodes first
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors; develop and grow in other parts of the digestive tracts and not the colon.
- Carcinoids; develop from hormone-making cells that are within the intestine.
- Sarcomas; sprouts in the soft tissues of the colon
- An odd difference in the movement of your bowels
- Bloodstains in stools. Although, this symptom could be a pointer to another illness like hemorrhoid. However, it is important not to leave it unchecked in order to confirm what exactly is the cause of the bloody stool.
- Fatigue or weakness
- A feeling of still having a full bowel even after using the bathroom several times
- Abdominal cramps, discomfort, and unnecessary gas
- Odd weight loss
- Improper digestion of food, leading to diarrhea or constipation
- Weird stool color
Most times, colon cancer does not show symptoms, especially in the early stages. When symptoms begin to surface, it usually varies depending on how large the cancer cells have become, as well as the location of the cancer cells in the large intestine. When you notice any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical attention before it becomes worse.
Late Stages Symptoms (Stages 3 and 4)
Symptoms become more in stages 3 and 4. Asides from the above-listed symptoms, other symptoms like the following may appear;
- Excessive weakness and tiredness
- Stool changes that do not get better for over one month
- A feeling of an always full bowel
- Excessive weight loss
- When cancer spreads to other organs of the body from the colon or rectum, the following symptoms begin to occur;
- Fractures in the bone
- Blurry and unclear vision
- Difficulty with breathing
- Swollen hands and legs
- Severe migraine
See the Doctor When…
You notice any symptoms, and they are persistent. Then a colon cancer screening would be carried out to diagnose it. In Addition, more screenings would be carried out if you have risk factors of colon cancer.
The main cause of colon cancer is still unknown to date. It begins with the mutation of healthy cells in the colon. When the DNA of these cells begins to change oddly to the negative and get damaged, those cells begin to get cancerous. They then begin to accumulate, forming a clump of cells and leading to a tumor that would eventually develop into colon cancer.
As time goes on, these cells begin to multiply and spread their tentacles across other parts of the body’s organs and tissues.
The following are risks that may increase your chances of suffering from colon cancer;
- Age; colon cancer can begin at any age. However, it is more common in people of ages 50 and above. Although recently, the cases of colon cancer in people less than the age of 50 have increased, and medical practitioners still do not understand why.
- Family history; if a direct relative of yours suffered from colon cancer, your tendencies of suffering from it increase. The risk is then heightened when more than one relative suffered from colon cancer.
- Intestinal conditions; severe colon inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease can put you at risk of developing colon cancer.
- Sedentary lifestyles; people who do not engage in physical activities have more colon cancer risks.
- African-Americans; research has unraveled that African-Americans have more colon cancer risks than other people of other races.
- High fat and low fiber diets; people who consume foods that are extremely high in fat and low in fiber may develop colon cancer later in their lives.
- Diabetes; people with insulin resistance and high blood sugar have more risks of colon cancer.
- Alcohol; excessive absorption of alcohol can lead to colon cancer. Though the risks are not very high.
- Obesity; almost half of the people who died from colon cancer were obese. Obesity has its way of putting you at risk of colon cancer.
- Other cancer radiation therapies that are directed to the abdomen can increase your risks of developing colon cancer.
When colon cancer is noticed early, it can be treated through one or a combination of cancer treatments. However, when colon cancer becomes severe and chronic, it can only be managed. The following are cancer treatments and management procedures for treating and managing colon cancer;
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Going for regular colon screening
- Lifestyle adjustments. The lifestyle changes that can help prevent colon cancer are;
- Moderating your consumption of alcohol
- Quitting excessive smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Engaging in productive physical activities
In conclusion, colorectal cancer is also known as colon or rectum cancer. It is cancer that begins either from the colon or rectum. Regular colon screening is one of the best preventive measures for colon cancer. Reporting symptoms as early as possible will help with early detection and rapid elimination.
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