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Rectal and Colon Cancer Information

Rectal and Colon Cancer has been growing steadily for years. Although this cancer is not a new disease, modern living and changing diets have brought about the increase we see in people suffering from Rectal Cancer today. Rectal and colon cancers have grown at an alarming rate. They are now the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. On a positive note, deaths caused by Rectal Cancer have been going down for the past few decades. Early detection and better treatment are responsible for many patients enjoying a full recovery from the disease.

Rectal and Colon Cancers are more predominant in Western and highly industrialized nations. Their incidence in Asian countries is significantly lower compared to modern countries. Studies have shown that eating fiber rich food decreases your chances of developing rectal cancer. Industrialized countries have a higher rate of colon and rectal cancers because diets have remained unhealthy. The pressure of modern living has left people with little or no time to prepare meals and many have turned to fast foods in lieu of eating a healthy diet.

What is Rectal or Colon Cancer?

Rectal or Colon Cancers also collectively referred to as colorectal cancers are diseases which develop in the colon (lower part of the large intestine) and rectal (last few inches) areas of the digestive system. To understand this medical condition better, let us first take a look at what cancers really are. Cancer is a disease that affects the basic unit of life, the human cell. This condition is characterized by the development of abnormal cells. These cells then replicate at an alarming rate until they replace normal cells in the affected area. Healthy cells are overtaken by cancer cells until the organ ceases to function or looses it ability to perform normally.


Malignant tumors develop when cancer cells grow at uncontrollable rates. These cells may break off and spread to another location causing multiple organ failures and death. Cancer cells may be spread thru the blood stream or lymphatic system.

Cases of colon and rectal cancers often begin as small, benign (non-cancerous) clusters of cells called adenomatous polyps. If left untreated these polyps develop into cancers. Because these polyps are located internally visual recognition is impossible. Regular screening tests or early detection is still best in stopping these polyps from developing into full blown cancers.

Symptoms of Colon and Rectal Cancer

Many symptoms of rectal cancer can easily be identified and should be consulted with a doctor immediately. However, routine checkups are invaluable since some people may not show certain signs and symptoms.

  • Unusual Bleeding

Unusual bleeding is a tell tale sign for many types of cancers. Colorectal cancers may cause ulcers that lead to blood stained stools. Long term bleeding may also cause anemia, palpitations and fatigue.

  • Abnormal Weight Loss

Sudden weight loss due to unexplainable circumstances coupled with the other symptoms of colorectal cancer should immediately be referred to your doctor. Cancers cell rapidly develop and multiply exhausting the body’s stored nutrients.

  • Feeling of fullness

Tumors can stop the normal movement of digested food to the intestines giving people a feeling of fullness. Large concentration of polyps exerts pressure on the digestive organs specifically the stomach leaving people with a feeling of fullness.

  • Abdominal discomfort or pain when defecating

Cancer cells destroy normal tissues causing pain sensations to be felt when defecating. Polyps may obstruct the normal movement of feces causing greater pressure to internal walls.

  • Changing bowel habits

People who are not able to eliminate their feces for a couple of days or unable to maintain their

  • Pencil shaped stools

Polyps or abnormal cell masses in the rectal area can affect the shape of the feces. Pencil shaped feces is a good indication of an obstruction.

Risks Factors

Early detection maybe the best way of increasing your chance of recovering from rectal and colon cancers but prevention saves you from the pain of treatment. Risk factors that increase your chance of developing these types of cancers include age, family history, existing bowel diseases and low fiber diets.

Advance age causes many changes in the body and some of these results to abnormal cell development. Routine physical checkups can identify abnormal growth especially in the colon that can develop later to a full blown cancer.

A history of colorectal cancers is also a good indication for a person to develop the cancer. Some of the mechanisms that cause cancer still remain unknown. Family history of colon cancers is a good indicator that a person is at high risk of developing cancer.

Studies have shown that diets high in fat and calcium increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer. A fiber rich diet on the other hand lowers your risk for developing cancer. Fiber from fruit helps people add bulk to their stools that helps them eliminate bowels better.

Early Diagnosis of Colon and Rectal Cancer

Going for a routine checkup helps patients identify potential diseases and increase the chance of stopping the cancer in their tracks before they develop into a life threatening medical condition. Many cancers are difficult to detect and some may require more than one visit to your doctor before being diagnosed correctly.

importance of a medical checkup

In cancer, early diagnosis increases your chance of surviving from the disease. It also helps you stop the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body or further complicating the medical condition. The best thing about early diagnosis is it helps people enjoy life better free from fear. Regular checkups do not only stop the progression of diseases but also helps people enjoy life better by keeping them healthy.

written by, Ronald Uy, RN

© 2010 H.I.C. Digestive Health

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Rectal Cancer occurs when a malignant tumor forms in the posterior region of the large intestines, which is called the rectum. There are many risk factors regarding Rectal Cancer, including heredity, Ulcerative Colitis, and colorectal polyps.

Rectal Cancer is similar to Colon Cancer, but with several distinguishing traits. The most common trait being its tendency to reoccur locally. Following major surgical procedures the rate of relapse is approximately 15-45%. The malignant tumors that occur as a result of Rectal Cancer begin as polyps, which may or may not initially be benign. Early detection and treatment of the condition thus begins with polyp removal, which in the preliminary stages can produce no symptoms. Diagnosis of Rectal Cancer is made by performing either a colonoscopy or a protoscopy, followed by a biopsy to confirm the findings.

Rectal Cancer prognosis is directly related the extent to which the rectal tumor has penetrated the wall of the anus, in addition to whether or not the cancer has spread and the lymphatic system has been compromised. It is these two traits that define what is known as the Staging System for the condition, which in turn determines the severity of ones case.

Rectal Cancer is typically treated through a surgical procedure called mesorectal excision. Doctors will prescribe a course of preoperative chemotherapy, which can reduce the chances of local recurrence, and can also reduce the adverse side-effects of postoperative chemotherapy. The survival rate of patients who under go surgery in conjunction with a course of chemotherapy is approximately 73%.

Rectal Cancer is responsible for about 55,500 deaths annually, with approximately 136,000 new cases reported every year. It is estimated that roughly two thirds of the reported cases are located in the colon, and the other third is located in the rectum.

Rectal Cancer Staging is performed after a diagnosis has been made. This process includes a CT Scan (computed tomography) of the abdomen, chest, and pelvic region. Blood work is also performed, as is tests to determine liver and kidney functionality. The objective of the Staging procedure is to assist in creating the most effective intervention. The Staging procedure for Rectal Cancer is similar to the Staging procedure performed for a diagnosis of Colon Cancer.

Rectal Cancer has many causes, some of which are environmental, some of which are genetic, and others which are hereditary. Environmentally, it is believed that a diet that is rich in high-fats, and low in dietary fiber, aids in the development of rectal polyps. Diets that are high in red meat also appear to increase one’s risk to developing Rectal Cancer or Colon Cancer. Recent tests seem to indicate that consumption of alcohol poses a risk to developing Rectal Cancer, as does smoking or ingesting nicotine products. A family history of Rectal Cancer is also a risk-factor that can determine one’s susceptibility and chances to developing the condition. Additionally, the genetic disorder called Familial Adenomatous Polypsosis is often responsible for the formation of intestinal polyps, some of which can and will become malignant of they go undetected and untreated. Ulcerative Colitis and Crohns Disease are two other preexisting conditions that contribute to Rectal Cancer.

written by David Gilbert

© H.I.C. Digestive Health


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