Colorectal cancer is the cancer that affects the colon or the rectum. It is also referred to as colon cancer. In brief, this cancer is related to the digestive system of the body. This article details out the symptoms, risk factors, tests and preventive measures of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms and Signs
Colorectal cancer symptoms are almost the same as those of hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms may not be perceptible at the early stage of colorectal cancer. Symptoms of this cancer type surface as severe warning signs at an advanced stage. People showing common noncancerous symptoms need to be screened regularly. The most possible warning signs of colorectal cancer are:
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Bloating or abdominal cramping
- Loss of appetite and fatigue
- Stool with dark patches of blood
- Unusual changes in bowel movement
- Rectal cramping or bleeding
- Iron deficiency in blood or anemia
- Pelvic pain
If you experience any of the symptoms and notice its increasing severity over time, go for diagnosis through colonoscopy screening.
Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
Age and gender are common colorectal cancer risk factors. The risk increases with ageing. People ageing than 50 are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer in 90% cases. However, young adults too may fall prey to this cancer type. Men are more prone to suffer from colorectal cancer than women.
Those with a family history of colorectal cancer have a possibility of being affected by it. It poses more risks to them if any of the family members has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer before 60. The risk doubles if any of the first-degree blood relations including parents and siblings has suffered from colorectal cancer at a younger age. Consult a genetic counselor and go for a genetic testing in case of family history of colorectal cancer.
Those with certain rare conditions inherited from family members are more exposed to colorectal cancer than others. Uncommon inherited conditions may be lynch syndrome, Gardner syndrome, Turcot syndrome, Juvenile Polyposis syndrome, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, MYH associated Polyposis and likes.
Those having inflammatory bowel disease may suffer from acute irritation of the large intestine. If inflammation of the large intestine becomes chronic, it may put them at a risk of colon cancer. Please note that inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome are different.
Usually polyps are not cancerous. But adenomas, a certain type of polyp, may heighten the risks of colorectal cancer. Development of colon cancer can be prevented through removal of adenomas polyps. If you have or had adenomas polyps, you should take a colonoscopy test for detection. Sometimes polyps are removed during colonoscopy.
Overweight, obesity and physical inactivity are other colorectal cancer factors. Obese people leading a sedentary lifestyle may get affected by colorectal cancer. A lot of seating in day-to-day life and minimal physical activity put pressure on the colon. Overweight and obesity aggravate the condition.
Dietary habits also contribute to developing risks of colorectal cancer. According to some current studies, processed red meat may be responsible for colon cancer development. Those eating processed red meat immoderately can suffer from colon cancer.
Some researches show that smokers are more exposed to colorectal cancer than nonsmokers. Immoderate smoking is a risk factor in case of this cancer type.
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
There are a number of clinical tests to detect colorectal cancer. You can undergo any of the following screenings based on your doctor’s advice.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
- Double Contrast Barium Enema
Fecal Occult Blood Test: During fecal occult blood test for colorectal cancer detection, a bit of stool is tested on a chemically treated paper. The presence of iron in the stool surfaces in this test. Experts recommend avoidance of red meat three days prior to the fecal occult blood test.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, the pathologist uses a tube with a fiber optic light attached to it to examine the colorectum. The tube with the optic light is put into the rectum during the screening. Experts recommend this test once in every five years from the age of fifty onwards.
Double Contrast Barium Enema: It a high-level colorectal cancer screening, which involves a number of x-rays to examine the lining of the colon and check if any abnormality is there in the rectum. A white chalky solution with some air is administered into the colon before x-rays are taken. It is not as invasive as other colon cancer screenings.
Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is done to examine the whole of the colon. If any type of polyps is found in the colon, it is removed through biopsy. Colonoscopy is mainly done to confirm the detection of colorectal cancer in any of the abovementioned tests. It is recommended once in every 10 years for those having high risk factors.
Preventive Measures for Colorectal Cancer Risks
Some medical researches highlight the efficacy of aspirin and other nonasteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in preventing development of polyps in the colon. However, regular intake of such drugs is not free from side effects. Make sure to consult a doctor before taking aspirin or any other drug.
A healthy diet with very less intake of red meat helps to reduce colorectal cancer risks. Dieticians recommend adding fruits and vegetables to daily diets for those having a family history of colon cancer.