As the name implies, cancer of the colon and rectum is what forms in the intestine and rectum. It is a disease that can affect both men and women and is one of the cancers with the highest incidence worldwide, which affects more than one million people each year. The positive thing to keep in mind is that, if this cancer is detected in time, it is possible to control it, treat it and eliminate it. The trouble is that their symptoms often do not appear until the cancer is very advanced.That’s why it’s important that you learn more about colorectal cancer so you can prevent it or act quickly.
How does colorectal cancer develop?
Colorectal tumors usually start as small growths inside the large intestine, called polyps. Polyps that are not removed can become cancerous, pass through the wall of the colon or rectum and spread to other areas of the body.
Rarely, colorectal cancer may develop without polyps, but in reality it is rare that, when it occurs, it usually occurs in people who have other chronic bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease .
What are the symptoms of cancer of the colon and rectum?
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer in their initial stages, usually, do not produce symptoms . When the cancer progresses, it may produce some of the following signs:
- Changes in the consistency of your feces and your bowel habits.
- Diarrhea or constipation for several weeks.
- Blood in stool or feces. Sometimes blood can not be seen with the naked eye. When it is seen, it does not always mean that it is cancer, it can be a symptom of other problems, but it is always necessary to consult a specialist (gastroenterologist or colon and rectal specialist).
- Fecal matter or narrow stools (almost the size of a pencil)
- Persistent discomfort in the abdomen such as cramping, bloating, gas and / or pain.
- Weight loss without explanation (without taking diet or eating less).
- Fatigue and / or weakness
When are I more likely to develop colorectal cancer?
You can develop colorectal cancer if you have some of these risk factors :
- You are over 50 years old.
- You have polyps in the large intestine or have had cancer of the colon or rectum, previously.
- Suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis disease (incidentally, the so-called irritable bowel syndrome is not a risk factor that is associated with colorectal cancer).
- You have diabetes (since insulin resistance can increase the chances of developing colorectal cancer).
- You have a diet high in fat and low in fiber.
- You lead a sedentary life.
- You are a smoker or abuse of alcohol.
- You are overweight or obese (especially if the fat is accumulated in the waist ).
- You have a family history of colorectal cancer, benign polyps, or inflammatory diseases in the intestines.
How can I prevent cancer of the colon and rectum?
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is by changing those habits in your life that may put you at risk. For example: incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole or whole grains ( that provide fiber ) in your daily diet, exercise regularly (at least half an hour per day, minimum five days per week), do not smoke, do not drink alcohol or do it with moderation (no more than one drink per day if you are a woman, and no more than two if you are a man) and maintain a healthy weight according to your height, sex and age.
Also, remember that you should be screened for colorectal cancer regularly. The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults get screened for colon cancer at age 50. People who have symptoms or other risk factors should start with evaluations sooner.
What are the methods of detecting colorectal cancer?
The so-called colonoscopy is the only method capable of identifying lesions and polyps and removing them at the same time. It is recommended to do a routine colonoscopy every 10 years, starting at age 50.
Other tests that your doctor may ask you for are:
- Digital rectal examination: at age 40 and annually after age 50.
- Analysis of occult blood in fecal matter: annually, starting at age 50.
- Sigmoidoscopy: every 5 years, starting at age 50, unless you have had a colonoscopy .
- Colon by enema with double contrast barium : it is not the preferred routine method, but it can be used instead of colonoscopy or as a complement to sigmoidoscopy, every 5 years.
- Virtual colonoscopy: more accurate radiological images of the colon, through the use of computed tomography technology.
What is the treatment of colorectal cancer?
Surgery is the most common treatment, and when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body it is possible that before or after surgery you should also receive chemotherapy or radiation.
With this information you can begin to take better care of yourself. Remember that it is very important that you do the periodic exams as your doctor tells you, in order to act as soon as possible. Share this information with your family and friends and together we fight against colorectal cancer.