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| 16/06/2021

What is colorectal cancer

There are many different kinds of cancer, that can occur across the human body, each carrying their own complications and treatments.

One of these is colorectal cancer, a type of cancer that affects the colon or the rectum which is a serious cause for concern. This kind of cancer is often grouped the umbrella term of bowel cancer.

In this blog, we’re going to find what colorectal cancer is, and how it occurs, before moving on to see what symptoms a patient with colorectal cancer might get as well as the kinds of treatments that are available.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer, sometimes shortened to colon cancer, is a kind of cancer that occurs in either the colon or the rectum in the human body.

The colon is the longest segment of the large intestine, a crucial organ that helps us process food. The colon part of the large intestine is responsible for extracting water and other key nutrients in partially digested food, so it has an essential role to play in our physical health.

The rectum is the final part of the large intestine, and leads out to the anus. Stool is kept in the colon, but as the colon fills up, the stool goes to the rectum. When this happens, we feel the need to go to the toilet to move the bowels.

Sometimes, polyps occur in the colon and the rectum. These polyps are tissue growth, often made from mucous. These polyps are normally harmless, though some can become cancerous – the best way to find out which polyps have the potential to become cancerous is through screening tests.

The screening tests are normally colonoscopy checks, which can reveal cancerous cells for treatment. Early treatment can treat the cancer and prevent it from becoming fatal.

What causes colorectal cancer?

There are a number of things that can cause colorectal cancer:

  • A family medical history of colorectal polyps or cancer.
  • Some bowel diseases that are inflammatory.
  • Genetic syndromes that affect the bowels.

There is also some evidence that certain lifestyle practices can affect the chances of someone getting colorectal. There are links between tobacco products and alcohol, along with poor diets and obesity.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

There are a number of symptoms of colorectal cancer that you can keep an eye out for. The following may be signs of this kind of cancer:

  • Blood from the rectum or back passage
  • Blood in your stool
  • Feeling like you need to opening your bowels, even after using the toilet
  • Pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • A bump in your rectum which will be identified by your doctor during screening
  • Weight-loss

Bowel obstruction can also be a sign of colorectal cancer – bowel obstruction itself is a medical emergency; learn more about what the symptoms of a bowel obstruction are with this guide.

What treatments are available for colorectal cancer ?

Once colorectal cancer has been identified through screening, several forms of treatment will be made available.

Surgery is the most common form of treatment, and there are numerous surgery variations that might be used. If caught early enough, a kind of surgery called local resection is used, where a surgeon will use a colonoscope to cut out the cancer from the lining of the rectum or the colon.

Another kind of surgery, called a colectomy, sees a section of the colon removed – the section with the cancerous cells. Once this is completed, the gap between the colon is sealed up.

The type of surgery that will be most applicable for your case will depend on the spread and severity of the cancer cells – your doctor will be able to give you a more informed evaluation.

You will also likely undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug-based treatment which will sometimes be used in conjunction with surgery. Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation waves to fight cancerous cells, and can sometimes be combined with chemotherapy in a treatment known as chemoradiotherapy.

If the cancer spreads to another part of your body, it then becomes what is known as advanced colorectal. At this stage, treatment will be focused on reducing symptoms, improving living standards and extending life-span.

Your doctor will be best placed to let you know what kind of treatment is best for you, and they’ll provided a treatment plan based on your individual needs.

At Ramsay healthcare, we have dedicated teams of cancer specialists who work to provide you with the right care and treatments for whatever kind of cancer you might be facing. You can find out more with our cancer care page.

For guides which cover all kinds of illnesses and other healthcare topics, visit our blog here.

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