Colorectal cancer is a formidable opponent that affects thousands of lives each year. It is a disease that demands attention, awareness, and action.
In this article, we will delve into the world of colorectal cancer, exploring its causes, symptoms, prevention strategies, and treatment options. By arming yourself with knowledge and taking proactive measures, you can join the fight against this relentless disease.
Understanding Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that grows in the colon, or at the very bottom of the colon that is connected to the anus (rectum). This cancer can be named colon cancer or rectum cancer, depending on the location of the cancer growth.
Most colorectal cancers start from intestinal polyps or tissues that grow on the wall in the colon or rectum. However, not all polyps will develop into colorectal cancer. The possibility of polyps turned into cancer also depends on the type of polyps themselves. There are two types of polyps in the colon, namely:
- Adenoma polyps. This type of polyps that can turn into cancer, therefore adenomas are also called pre-cancerous conditions.
- Hyperplastic polyps. These types of polyps are more common, and usually do not become cancerous.
Besides, depending on the type of polyp, there are several factors that can affect the change of polyp into colorectal cancer, such as the size of a polyp larger than 1 cm, there are more than 2 polyps in the colon or rectum, or when found dysplasia (abnormal cells) after the polyp is removed.
Colorectal cancer originates in the colon or rectum and is often preceded by precancerous polyps. While it predominantly affects older individuals, it can strike at any age. Early detection is crucial, as it significantly increases the chances of successful treatment. That’s why routine screenings and awareness are paramount.
The Stakes Are High
When faced with colorectal cancer, one must acknowledge the gravity of the situation. This disease can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly. By shining a light on this silent killer, we can empower individuals to take control of their health and make informed decisions. Remember, knowledge is power!
Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
The cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, but you may be at risk of experiencing it when:
Certain Medical Conditions
Several medical conditions can increase the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. These include:
a. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can raise the risk. If you have IBD, it is important to undergo regular screenings and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
b. Genetic Syndromes: Certain genetic syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome, predispose individuals to colorectal cancer. Genetic testing and counseling can help identify if you have these syndromes and guide appropriate preventive measures.
c. Colorectal Polyp
Polyps grow on the inner walls of the colon or rectum and usually occur in those who are over 50 years of age. In general, polyps are benign (not cancerous), but as time passes and genetic changes, some polyps may turn into cancer.
d. Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (colon inflammation)
If a person has been exposed to a condition that causes inflammation of the colon (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease) for several years, then he or she has experienced an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
e. Personal Cancer History
If a person has had colorectal cancer, he can regain the cancer a second time. Women with a history of ovarian cancer, uterus (endometrium) or breast cancer also has a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
History of Colorectal Cancer in The family
If you have a family with a history of colorectal cancer, then you have a greater risk than others to get the same cancer, especially when your brother is exposed to cancer at a young age.
Certain lifestyle choices can increase your risk of colorectal cancer. These include:
a. Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity and leading a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the development of colorectal cancer. Engaging in regular exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, can help reduce the risk.
b. Unhealthy Diet: A diet high in red and processed meats, saturated fats, and low in fiber has been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Opting for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help lower the risk.
c. Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through a combination of regular exercise and a nutritious diet is crucial for prevention.
d. Tobacco and Alcohol Use: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have been linked to colorectal cancer. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can significantly reduce the risk.
Over 50 years old
Colorectal cancer is very likely to occur when a person’s age grows. More than 90% of the sufferers aged over 50 years.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
To minimize your chances of developing colorectal cancer, consider the following prevention strategies:
1. Regular Screenings
Routine screenings, such as colonoscopies, are crucial for early detection and prevention. Discuss with your healthcare provider the appropriate age to start screening and the frequency based on your risk factors
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Incorporate the following habits into your daily routine:
a. Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, or dancing.
b. Eat a balanced diet: Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit the intake of processed foods, red meat, and saturated fats.
c. Maintain a healthy weight: If you are overweight or obese, strive to achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular physical activity. d. Limit alcohol and avoid tobacco: If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For tobacco users, seek support to quit smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Moreover, it would seem that a high fiber diet (whole grains, raw, cooked, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits) helps prevent colorectal cancer, as well as other cancer.
Finally, limiting the consumption of cold cuts (sausage, dried sausage, raw ham, etc.), grilled meats over a wood fire or on the barbecue, smoked foods, as well as red meat also seem to reduce the risk of Cancer colorectal.
In some countries with little sunshine, health authorities recommend taking supplements of vitamin D in autumn and winter, or even all year round for the elderly, people who rarely leave their homes or workplaces, and those with black skin.
3. Be Aware of Symptoms
Stay vigilant and familiarize yourself with the warning signs of colorectal cancer, such as persistent changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, and abdominal pain. If you experience any concerning symptoms, consult your healthcare provider promptly.
By understanding the risk factors associated with colorectal cancer and implementing preventive measures, you can take control of your health and reduce your chances of developing this disease. Remember, early detection is key, so prioritize regular screenings and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
What are the causes of colorectal cancer?
In 60 to 80% of cases, the colorectal cancer arise from small benign growths in the lining of the colon and rectum, the polyps. From the age of 50, polyps of the intestinal wall are frequent. Most of them are benign and will not develop into Cancer. But certain polyps can, under certain conditions, turn into tumors cancerous. This transformation is slow, often more than ten years. Those polyps can be viewed and removed during a colonoscopy.
The factors which condition the transformation of a polyp in colorectal cancer are not identified.
1. Wrong diet
Research suggests that an unhealthy diet is the main cause of colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancer patients will consume too much meat and animal organs in their diet.
These foods are rich in fat, protein, calories and cholesterol, which if eaten in large quantities for a long time will affect gut health. Especially protein-rich foods, if this ingredient accumulates too much in the body, the intestines cannot completely break down, the edema will occur. At that time, a large amount of toxins was produced, leading to damage to the intestinal lining, the risk of colorectal cancer is very high.
In addition, if you eat too much sour, smoked, baked, and fried foods in your daily life, it will also increase the risk of colorectal cancer. There are a lot of nitrites in pickled and smoked foods, and nitrosamines that are metabolized into the human body are a kind of carcinogen.
The aromatic methyl amines contained in fried and baked foods are also a chemical carcinogen. If these foods are eaten in large quantities for a long time, gut health can be compromised and the risk of colorectal cancer is very high.
2. Having an intestinal disease for a long time
People with long-term colorectal polyps are in the high-risk group for colorectal cancer, about 90% of colorectal cancers develop from colorectal polyps.
Colorectal polyps grow on the inner wall of the large intestine, once the volume is too large, the patient will experience a series of uncomfortable symptoms in the abdomen such as diarrhea, abdominal distention, abdominal pain, constipation, and blood in feces. Once colorectal polyps persist for a long time and the symptoms become more and more obvious, the likelihood of cancer will increase many times.
In addition, if you have some inflammatory bowel disease for a long time, the surface of the ulcer will infect the surrounding area. This makes the intestinal lining seriously damaged, the risk of colorectal cancer will be very high.
3. Unhealthy lifestyle
An unhealthy lifestyle is also a major cause of colorectal cancer, such as an unclean diet for a long time, wrong bowel habits and a number of other factors.
In addition, if you are in a state of stress for a long time, are overweight, stay up too late, etc., you will also be more likely to get colorectal cancer.
In short, although the cause of colorectal cancer is not very clear, it is related to wrong habits in living and diet. So everyone needs to be very careful.
In addition, reasonable exercise every day also has a certain effect in maintaining a reasonable weight and promoting bowel movements. If you experience symptoms such as thin stools, blood in the stools, abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and repeated constipation in daily life, it is necessary to treat them soon.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Colorectal cancer is known for its subtle symptoms that can often be mistaken for other less concerning conditions. However, it is important to be aware of the signs that warrant immediate medical attention. By recognizing these warning signs, you can take prompt action and potentially catch colorectal cancer at an early stage.
Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:
Persistent Changes in Bowel Habits
Pay attention to any noticeable and unexplained changes in your bowel movements. This includes experiencing diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both that lasts for an extended period. If these changes persist for more than a few days or weeks, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider.
Rectal bleeding can occur due to various reasons, but it should never be ignored. If you notice blood in your stool or on the toilet paper, especially if it is bright red or dark and tarry, it could be a sign of colorectal cancer. Make sure to seek medical evaluation to determine the cause.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Sudden and unexplained weight loss, without any changes in diet or physical activity, can be a potential red flag. If you have unintentionally lost a significant amount of weight within a short period, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying causes, including colorectal cancer.
Abdominal Pain or Discomfort
Persistent abdominal pain, cramping, or discomfort that is not relieved by usual measures may warrant further investigation. If you experience unexplained pain in your abdomen, especially if it is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, it’s crucial to get medical attention.
Fatigue and Weakness
Feeling excessively tired, weak, or fatigued, even after getting adequate rest, can be a symptom of colorectal cancer. If you experience persistent fatigue that interferes with your daily activities, it’s important to discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Colorectal cancer can cause chronic bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to iron deficiency anemia. If you have low iron levels, experience symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, and frequent dizziness, it’s important to investigate the underlying cause.
Remember, these symptoms can have various causes, and experiencing them does not necessarily mean you have colorectal cancer. However, it is crucial not to ignore persistent or concerning symptoms. If you notice any of these warning signs, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for further evaluation and appropriate testing.
Early detection plays a significant role in improving outcomes and increasing treatment options for colorectal cancer. Don’t hesitate to listen to your body and seek medical attention if you have any concerns. Your proactive approach could make a substantial difference in your health and well-being.
Other Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
Check with your doctor if you have the following colorectal cancer symptoms:
- Changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting
- Feeling that your defecation is not complete
- Find a blood (either bright red or very dark) on your stools
- Your stools are smaller than usual
- Often experience pain due to gas or cramps, or feel full or bloated
Note that these symptoms can be caused by other health problems and are often not due to cancer. Also, it is important to note that early-stage cancers usually do not cause pain and may not have obvious symptoms. Therefore, anyone with these symptoms should visit the doctor to perform colorectal cancer screening as soon as possible.
Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis
To make colorectal cancer diagnosis is carried out gradually, among others through proper anamnesis, physical examination, and supporting examination in the form of laboratory tests, both from clinical laboratory and anatomical Pathology Laboratory.
Detecting colorectal cancer at an early stage is crucial for successful treatment outcomes. Fortunately, there are several diagnostic tools and screening methods available that can help identify colorectal cancer or precancerous conditions. Let’s explore these options and gain a better understanding of their benefits and limitations:
Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening. During this procedure, a flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the colon, allowing the healthcare provider to examine the entire length of the colon and rectum.
If any abnormalities or polyps are found, they can be removed or biopsied for further analysis. Colonoscopy provides both diagnostic and therapeutic benefits and is recommended every 10 years for individuals at average risk starting at age 50.
Similar to colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy uses a flexible tube with a camera, but it only examines the lower part of the colon. This procedure is often recommended every 5 years and can help detect abnormalities in the rectum and sigmoid colon. However, it does not provide a complete view of the entire colon.
Virtual Colonography (CT Colonography)
Virtual colonography, also known as CT colonography, is a non-invasive imaging technique that uses computed tomography (CT) to create detailed images of the colon and rectum.
It provides a 3D view of the colon, allowing healthcare providers to identify polyps or other abnormalities. Virtual colonography is recommended every 5 years, but if polyps are detected, a follow-up colonoscopy is necessary for their removal.
Stool-based tests are non-invasive screening options that detect signs of colorectal cancer in the stool samples. There are different types of stool-based tests available, including:
a. Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT):
FIT detects small amounts of blood in the stool, which can be an indication of colorectal cancer or polyps. It is a convenient and cost-effective option, and if the test result is positive, a follow-up colonoscopy is recommended.
b. Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT):
FOBT is an older version of the stool-based test that also detects blood in the stool. However, it is less sensitive than FIT and may require dietary restrictions before the test.
c. Stool DNA Test:
Stool DNA tests detect specific genetic markers and altered DNA in the stool. This test can identify both blood and certain genetic mutations associated with colorectal cancer. A positive result typically requires a follow-up colonoscopy.
It’s important to note that stool-based tests, including FIT and FOBT, should be performed annually, while stool DNA tests are generally done every three years. If abnormalities are detected through these tests, a colonoscopy is required for further evaluation.
Each screening method has its advantages and limitations, and the choice depends on factors such as personal preferences, risk factors, and healthcare provider recommendations. It’s essential to discuss these options with your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable screening method for you.
Regular screenings, regardless of the method chosen, significantly contribute to early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer. By staying proactive and participating in recommended screening programs, you can take control of your health and potentially prevent the development of advanced colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer treatment
Upon receiving a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, individuals enter a crucial phase of their healthcare journey: exploring the various treatment options available. Treatment plans are personalized based on factors such as the stage of cancer, overall health, and individual preferences.
Understanding the intricacies of each approach empowers patients to engage in informed discussions with their healthcare providers. Let’s delve into the different treatment options for colorectal cancer:
Surgery is the main treatment for localized colorectal cancer. It involves the removal of the tumor and nearby lymph nodes. The extent of surgery depends on the tumor location and its stage. Common surgical procedures include:
a. Colectomy: This procedure involves removing a portion of the colon that contains the tumor. In some cases, a partial colectomy may be performed, while more extensive cases may require a total colectomy.
b. Rectal Resection: For tumors located in the rectum, a rectal resection is performed. It involves removing the tumor along with a portion of the rectum, and sometimes the surrounding tissues. Surgical intervention may be combined with other treatment modalities to optimize outcomes.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth. It may be administered before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to reduce tumors, after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) to eradicate any cancer cells that still exist, or for advanced cases to control the disease.
Chemotherapy can be systemic (intravenous or oral) or regional (directly to the affected area).
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy X-rays or other radiation sources to target and eradicate cancer cells. It may be employed before surgery (neoadjuvant radiation therapy) to reduce tumor size, after surgery (adjuvant radiation therapy) to prevent recurrence, or to alleviate symptoms in advanced cases.
Targeted therapy using drugs that specially target the unique characteristics of cancer cells. It focuses on blocking specific proteins or pathways involved in cancer growth. Targeted therapy can be effective in cases where specific genetic mutations or protein abnormalities are present.
Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It stimulates the immune system to understand and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Immunotherapy has shown promising results in treating advanced colorectal cancer, particularly in cases where specific biomarkers are present.
Treatment plans are often tailored to individual circumstances, and combinations of these treatment modalities may be employed to achieve the best outcomes. The specific approach is determined through comprehensive discussions between patients and their healthcare providers.
It’s important for patients to openly communicate their concerns, goals, and preferences with their healthcare team. Engaging in shared decision-making and seeking second opinions when necessary can aid in developing a treatment plan that aligns with individual needs.
Remember, each treatment option carries potential benefits and risks, and regular follow-ups and ongoing communication with healthcare providers are essential throughout the treatment journey. By actively participating in the decision-making process, patients can navigate their treatment with confidence and optimize their chances of successful outcomes.
Coping with Colorectal Cancer
A diagnosis of colorectal cancer can be overwhelming, both emotionally and physically. It is essential to address the holistic needs of patients and provide supportive care throughout their treatment journey. Coping with the challenges of colorectal cancer requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses both medical treatment and emotional support.
Here are some strategies to help patients navigate this difficult time:
Seek Emotional Support
It is normal to experience a range of emotions upon receiving a cancer diagnosis. It is crucial to seek emotional support from loved ones, friends, or support groups. Sharing your feelings and concerns with others who have been through a similar experience can provide comfort and a sense of community.
Communicate with Your Healthcare Team
Maintain open and honest communication with your healthcare team. They can provide information, answer your questions, and address any concerns you may have. Understanding your treatment plan and having a clear line of communication with your healthcare providers can alleviate anxiety and provide a sense of control.
Engage in Self-Care
Taking care of yourself is essential during this time. Engage in activities that bring you joy, whether it’s reading, practicing mindfulness, pursuing a hobby, or spending time in nature. Prioritize self-care to help manage stress and maintain your overall well-being.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can complement your medical treatment and improve your overall well-being. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Engage in regular physical activity as recommended by your healthcare provider. Prioritize adequate sleep and manage stress through relaxation techniques or meditation.
Explore Supportive Care Options
Supportive care focuses on managing the symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment to improve quality of life. It may include pain management, nutrition counseling, physical therapy, and complementary therapies such as acupuncture or massage. Discuss these options with your healthcare team to determine what may be beneficial for you.
Connect with Supportive Services
Take advantage of supportive services offered by cancer centers or community organizations. These services may include counseling, support groups, educational programs, and resources for financial assistance. They can provide valuable information and emotional support throughout your journey.
Educate yourself about colorectal cancer, treatment options, and potential side effects. Being well-informed empowers you to make decisions about your treatment and actively participate in your care. However, ensure that you access reliable sources of information such as reputable medical websites or trusted healthcare professionals.
Remember, everyone copes with a cancer diagnosis differently, and it is essential to find coping strategies that work for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support when needed. Your emotional well-being is as important as your physical health throughout your treatment journey.
By addressing the holistic needs of patients and providing comprehensive support, we can ensure their well-being and enhance their ability to cope with the challenges of colorectal cancer.
FAQs About Colorectal Cancer
Q: Is colorectal cancer hereditary?
A: While some cases of colorectal cancer have a hereditary component, the majority occur sporadically. However, individuals with a family history should undergo regular screenings and consult with a genetic counselor.
Q: Can lifestyle modifications reduce the risk of colorectal cancer?
A: Yes, adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower the risk. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, limiting alcohol intake, and avoiding tobacco are all important factors in reducing the risk.
Q: Are there alternative treatments for colorectal cancer?
A: While alternative therapies may complement conventional treatment, they should never be used as a replacement. It is crucial to discuss any alternative treatments with your healthcare team to ensure they are safe and effective.
Colorectal cancer is a formidable adversary, but armed with knowledge, early detection, and proper treatment, we can overcome it.
By prioritizing screenings, understanding the risk factors, recognizing symptoms, and seeking prompt medical attention, we can improve outcomes and save lives. Remember, you have the power to protect your health and defy the odds.