About Colorectal Cancer

The month of March is observed as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month all over globe. Before going into the depths of the topic, first we need to understand what is Colorectal Cancer and how does it develop. To elaborate it in simple words, we define Colorectal Cancer (CRC) as a disease in which cancerous tumors grow out of control in either Colon or Rectum.

We know that the large intestine is responsible for drawing out the water and solid waste through rectum where it exits the body via anus. Colorectal cancer is the growth of the cancerous cells in the linings of colon whereas in rectal cancer, the tumors grow inside the rectum, which is the last inches of the large intestine. Colorectal cancer, which describes co-occurring colon cancer and rectal cancer, is common.

According to the stats, Colorectal Cancer is the 3rd most common type of cancer in both the men & women worldwide. But what causes colorectal cancer, what are the key factors involved in developing Colorectal Cancer, and the common signs & symptoms it shows when a person is infected from this disease, these are the points which will remain in our focus in today’s blog.

Signs & Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer (CRC)

Symptoms and signs of Colorectal Cancer (CRC) may include one or more of the following;

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Changes in stool consistency, such as loose, narrow stools
  • Blood in the stool, which may make stools appear dark brown or black
  • Bright red bleeding from the rectum
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, or gas
  • Continual urges to defecate despite passing stools
  • Weakness & fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Iron-deficiency anemia

A colorectal cancer patient may experience drastic weight loss and severe abdominal pain, but that usually occurs at later stages of the cancer. Lest we should forget is the fact that if the cancer spreads to some other parts of the body such as liver, the patient may experience some additional symptoms too, such as jaundice.

Stages of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer has been classified into 5 stages, as there are different ways of assigning a stage to cancer. The staging process indicates how far cancer has spread and the size of any tumor. In colorectal cancer, the stages develop in following pattern;

Stage 0

At this point, the cancer remains at a very early stage. It has not grown farther than the inner layer of the colon. At this stage, it is comparatively easier to treat the cancer.

Stage 1

Colorectal cancer is classified as stage 1 cancer when the tumors have grown into the next layer of tissue.

Stage 2

When the cancerous cells reach the outer layers of the colon but have not spread beyond, it is then classified as the stage 2 of colorectal cancer.

Stage 3

When the cancer has grown through the outer layers of the colon and reached one to three lymph nodes, but has not spread to the distant sites, it is then termed as stage-3 cancer.

Stage 4

Now when the cancerous tumors have spread beyond the walls of the colon and reach outer tissues to the distant body parts, it is classified as stage-4 cancer.

Cancerous cells are spread from malignant tumors to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph nodes. These cancer cells can grow and invade the healthy tissues nearby, as well as throughout the body, a process usually called as metastasis. Such a spread mostly results in much serious and an extremely difficult medical condition to treat.

What causes Colorectal Cancer?

Usually, cells follow an orderly process of growth, division, and death. Cancer can develop when cells grow and divide uncontrollably and do not die at the normal point in their life cycle.

Polyps are an unwanted growth of tissues that are formed inside of the colon or rectum. Although the polyps are noncancerous, but cancer can begin with some specific types of polyps. If a person has a type of noncancerous polyp, usually called an adenomatous polyp, then such people are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Most of the times, such polyps are formed on the inner walls of the large intestine.

As of now, the medical researchers are unsure about the exact cause of colorectal cancer. Yet, there are certain factors that need to be taken under consideration. These factors have a vital role in developing cancerous tumors in either colon or rectum.

Common Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer

Although the exact causes of colorectal cancer are unknown, but there are several potential risk factors that need to be considered.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Family history
  • Diet low in fruit & vegetables
  • Low-fiber & high-fat diet
  • Processed meats
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Overweight & obesity
  • Alcohol & tobacco consumption

Growth of precancerous polyps in large intestine may result in the development of colorectal cancer. If a surgeon does not remove them during the early stages of treatment, some of these polyps possess the ability to grow into malignant cancer.

Inactive lifestyle is yet another reason for the development of colorectal cancer, because the disease is more likely to affect people with inactive lifestyles, obesity, and individuals who use tobacco.

Since the colon is a major part of our digestive system, so the diet we intake and nutrition habits have a crucial role in well-being of colon and rectum. Those who consume saturated fats, red meat, alcohol & processed meat excessively are at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.