Information About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal (bowel) cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Together, the colon and rectum make up the large bowel or large intestine. The large intestine is the last segment of the digestive system (the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine are the first three sections). The large bowel’s main job is to reabsorb water from the contents of the intestine so that solid waste can be expelled. The first several feet of the large intestine is the colon and the last 6 inches is the rectum.

Causes of Colorectal Cancer

Most colon and rectal cancers originate from benign wart-like growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called polyps. Not all polyps have the potential to transform into cancer. Those that do have the potential are called adenomas. It takes more than 10 years in most cases for an adenoma to develop into cancer. This is why some colon cancer prevention tests are effective even if done at 10-year intervals. This 10-year interval is too long, in some cases, such as in persons with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s colitis, and in persons with a strong family history of colorectal cancer or adenomas.

Although the cause of colon cancer is unknown, physicians have been able to identify risk factors that patients should be aware of. Patients at an increased risk to develop colon cancer are:

  • Over the age of 50
  • Obese
  • Smokers
  • Heavy drinkers
  • Diabetics

In addition, patients who have GI diseases, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are also at an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

During the early stages of colon cancer, patients may not experience symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, any of the following signs and symptoms can be seen:

  • Blood in the stool (often unseen and detected in a stool test)
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Weight loss

Patients experiencing these symptoms should Schedule an appointment with a physician, as a colonoscopy might be necessary.

Diagnosis of Colon Cancer

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows physicians to view the inner lining of the intestinal wall. In relation to colon cancer, a colonoscopy helps locate the presence of cancerous polyps that might be causing the above-mentioned symptoms. Additionally, a colonoscopy affords physicians the opportunity to perform a polyp biopsy to definitively diagnose colon cancer.

Colon Cancer Treatment

Colon cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors: the type of cancer, health of the patient, and progression of the disease are taken into account. Our physicians’ at Digestive Healthcare of Georgia will work with you to come up with the best treatment plan for your condition.