are no symptoms in early stages.
in bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea, or extremely narrow
stools) lasting for more than 10 days.
or black, tarry stools.
or tenderness in the lower abdomen.
cramps, gas pains, and a protracted feeling of fullness.
of appetite and loss of weight.
paleness (pallor), and heart palpitations due to anemia that
often occurs in conjunction with colorectal cancer.
to pass stools (a sign of intestinal obstruction, an emergency
When To Call Your Doctor
a doctor if you experience rectal bleeding or if you have
changes in your bowel movements that persist for three weeks
an appointment with a doctor if you have a personal or family
history of colon disease or if you are age 50 or older.
immediate medical attention if you experience a total inability
to pass stools.
What Is It?
Colorectal cancer, one of the most common types
of cancer, is the growth of malignant cells in the colon or rectum.
Tumors in the colon are slow growing, but may eventually become
large enough to obstruct the digestive tract. The cancer may
spread to the liver, lymph nodes, or other parts of the body,
and symptoms may not appear until the cancer is quite advanced.
However, if detected and treated early, the outlook is optimistic.
What Causes It?
A diet high
in animal fats (especially from red meat) and low in fiber is
associated with a higher incidence of colorectal cancer.
or family history of colon polyps or ulcerative colitis increases
the likelihood of colorectal cancer. A family history of colorectal,
breast, or endometrial cancer is also a risk factor.
The risk of
colorectal cancer increases sharply after age 50.
Eat a diet
low in animal fat and high in fiber.
checkups if you have a personal or family history of colon or
digestive tract disease.
50 also should have an annual stool sample test for hidden bleeding.
In addition, they should undergo either a colonoscopy every 5
to 10 years, a sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or a double-contrast
barium enema every 5 to 10 years.
Blood and stool
samples are taken.
A digital rectal
exam (in which the doctor examines the rectum with a gloved finger)
or colonoscopy is used to view the bowel, during which a biopsy
may be taken to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant.
A barium enema
may be necessary. The barium creates a sharp image of the colon
during an x-ray.
should always be suspected (and proper tests conducted) in older
men and in postmenopausal women with iron-deficiency anemia.
How To Treat It
necessary to remove the tumor. If the cancer is detected early,
the surgery may be limited to a bowel resection, in which the
cancerous part of the colon is removed and the healthy parts
are rejoined. Nearby lymph nodes are also removed.
If the tumor
is blocking the colon, the cancerous part of the colon is removed,
and the end of the remaining upper portion of the colon is brought
through an opening created in the abdominal wall for waste to
pass through, into a bag. This procedure (colostomy) may be temporary,
to allow the colon to heal after the operation, or permanent,
when cancer is extensive (about 15% of cases).
may be used before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor or
after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells; chemotherapy
may be used to halt the spread of the cancer.
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