Colon and Rectal Cancer Newsletter

By: Christian Hangey Pd.3

What is it?

Colon and rectal cancer is cancer of the colon and rectum, which are both part of the large intestine. Cancerous cells can sometimes multiply and form polyps in the colon or rectum, which can be seen by doctors. Because polyps can be cancerous, checkups in these areas is very important. Even though cancer can form from these polyps, it doesn't always mean you have cancer if you have them. Of course, if it's left untreated it can spread to other parts of the body and lead to loads of trouble. The cancer is still called colon and rectal cancer no matter how far it spreads, however.
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Symptoms

Symptoms of colon and rectal cancer include...
  • blood leaving the anus
  • changes in bathroom habits
  • changes in consistency of your waste
  • cramps
  • gas
  • pain
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • change in appetite
However, a lack of symptoms is common in the early stages, so checkups at the doctors are necessary.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors of colon and rectal cancer include...
  • bad genetics
  • a diet high in fat and low in fiber
  • drinking lots of alcohol
  • being overweight
  • smoking
  • a lack of exercise
Researchers are still trying to discover why people develop colon and rectal cancer. Bad genetics are thought to play a part in the development of the cancer, but we don't know how much of an effect the environment has on it.

Prevention

Even though we don't know what may cause the cancer, there are definitely things you can do to prevent getting it. You can make sure you...
  • don't smoke
  • exercise
  • eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and not as many fats
  • get screened by a doctor (colonoscopy)
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Treatment

Even though treatment for colorectal cancer is similar to most other types of cancer, the treatments have to be aimed at the colon region. For example, doctors have to know how to conduct surgery in the colon region and know exactly how to make safe incisions without causing too much harm to the body. Once the cancer spreads, however, more broad treatments like chemotherapy or radiation treatment aim to kill cancer cells all over the body.

Treatments for colon and rectal cancer include...
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation treatment
  • surgery
  • ablation (the destruction of tumors without their removal from the body)
  • embolization (cut off blood flow to cancer cells)

Diagnosis

Tests done to determine if you have this type of cancer include...

  • colonoscopy (allows doctors to look inside the entire large intestine area)
  • biopsy
  • blood tests
  • ultrasound
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • CAT scan (shows 3D image of the inside of the body)

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Who is likely to develop it, and how common is it?

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer for both men and women in America. It is the second most common overall, and this year there have been an estimated 135,000 diagnosed with the disease. Obese people seem more likely than healthy people to develop the cancer, and men seem more likely to develop it than women. African Americans also are at a higher risk to develop the cancer than white people. The older a person gets, the more likely they are to develop colon and rectal cancer. (It is most common to get it after the age of 45.)