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Colorectal cancer is one of the more common cancers in the United Sates, affecting about two of every 1,000 people. The risk of acquiring colorectal cancer increases in both men and women over age 50.
Proper diagnosis, staging and treatment are critical phases in countering colorectal cancer. Through microscopic examination of a biopsy specimen, the pathologist determines whether an abnormality exists and, if so, whether it is benign or malignant. The surgical pathologist’s diagnosis is the key to determining the need for further treatment. Should the pathologist determine the existence of colon cancer, its type and extent will then be evaluated in order to determine the most appropriate treatment option.
Q. What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
A. There are often no symptoms of colorectal cancer in its early stages. Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp that can grow larger and become cancerous. Symptoms include:
- Change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowl doesn't empty itself)
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in the stool or toilet after a bowel movement
- Prolonged diarrhea or constipation
- A change in the size or shape of your stool
- Abdominal pain or cramping pain in your lower stomach
- Feeling of discomfort or urge to have a bowel movement when there is no need
- Unexplained weight loss, tiredness, and vomiting
Q. How do you get colorectal cancer?
A. The exact causes of colorectal cancer are unclear, although a number of risk factors have been identified that may increase a person's chance of developing the condition. For example the risk is increased:
- In more elderly people
- In people who have a diet high in protein, saturated fats and calories, but low in fiber.
- In those who have a high alcohol intake.
- In those with a past history of some females cancers, such as those of the breast, ovary or uterus.
- In people who have one or more close family members who have had colorectal cancer
- People with the condition ulcerative colitis, where the lining of the colon becomes inflamed also have a higher risk
- Another common risk factor for colorectal cancer is the presence of polyps. These are benign growths on the inner walls of the colon or rectum. If they are left untreated, they may over time, become cancerous.
Q. Can colorectal cancer be prevented?
A. There are steps that will help reduce the risk of contracting the disease:
- Thorough bowel examinations
- Removal of Begin polyps
- Awareness of change in bowel habits
- Diets high in fiber and low in fat
Q. What are the treatments for colorectal cancer?
A. Treatment of colorectal cancer will vary depending on the extent of the disease. Only your physician can determine the best therapy to treat your condition. Here are some of the treatment options:
- Surgery: Surgery is the most common form of treatment. The surgeon will remove the cancer along with a portion of healthy colon and rectum. The specimen will be tested further to make sure all the cancerous tissue has been removed.
- Chemotherapy: This method of treatment uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy maybe used to control a tumor, relieve symptoms or destroy cancer cells that remain in the body after surgery.
- Radiation and Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This method is focused directly on the affected area.
Q. How long does colorectal cancer last?
- It is estimated that 1 or 2 people out of every 100, aged 50 years and over, will develop colorectal cancer.
- Approximately 4 out of 10 patients are at the advanced stages by the time it is first detected and confirmed.
- • This means that surgery is the most likely option after the initial diagnosis and consultation.
- In a smaller number of cases, it is possible that the patient may only need treatment by a medical or clinical cancer specialist, without surgery.
Important Questions to Ask your Doctor
- What is the stage of my colorectal cancer?
- What is the best treatment option?
- What are the risks and side effects of this treatment option?
- Will I need a colostomy? Will it be permanent?
- What can I do to take care of myself during and after treatment?
- How long will the treatment last, and what will be my follow-up?
- Who can I turn to for nutritional and dietary information?
This report is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best option.