Colorectal cancer originates from the colon, the long tube that carries digested food products to the rectum from where it is excreted. The cancer develops from growth or polyps in the colon’s inner lining. Screening tests are available to detect precancerous polyps before they can turn malignant. If not treated at the right time, colorectal cancer may spread to other parts of the body. Thankfully, because of screening tests, early and effective treatment options, and the novel treatment approaches, colorectal cancer is now treatable.
The wall of the colon consists of layers of tissue, muscle, and mucous membrane. Colorectal cancer originates from the mucosa, the colon’s innermost lining. It contains cells that produce and release mucous and other fluids. If these cells change or mutate, a colon polyp may be formed.
Colon polyps tend to turn malignant over time. Usually, it takes around ten years for a colon polyp to turn malignant. If left untreated or if it is not detected, the cancer spreads to outside of the colon through the layers of tissues and muscles. Colorectal cancer may also metastasise to other body parts through the blood vessels or lymph nodes.
Colorectal cancer is one of the commonest cancers affecting people in India. It is more commonly seen to occur in males as compared to females. Also, it is more commonly seen in people above fifty years of age. However, over the past decade, the number of younger people who have been affected with colorectal cancer have increased at an alarming rate.
Colorectal cancer can be asymptomatic. Even if symptoms are present, those are not specific to colon cancer. In other words, the symptoms of colorectal cancer are similar to those of less serious but similar conditions. Following are some of the most common symptoms of colorectal cancer:
Like other types of cancers, colorectal cancer occurs when the cells of the colon grow and multiply at an abnormally fast rate. All the cells are constantly growing, multiplying, and perishing. That is how the body maintains its health and functions properly. In colorectal cancer, the cells of the rectum and the colon keep on multiplying rapidly when they actually were supposed to die. Sometimes, these malignant cells arise from pre-existing colon polyps.
It is not known why some people develop such precancerous polyps. However, it is known that the presence of certain risk factors increases the chances of developing these precancerous polyps. Some of those risk factors include certain medical conditions and lifestyle choices. Even if you have one or more risk factors for developing colorectal cancer, it does not mean that you will develop the disease. It just indicates that you are at a higher risk for the same. Getting to know these risk factors will help you determine whether it’s a good idea for you to talk to your doctor about your susceptibility to developing colorectal cancer.
Following are some lifestyle choices that increase the chances of developing colorectal cancer:
Following are some medical conditions that increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer:
Several tests are performed by healthcare providers to establish a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Those tests include:
A screening test is used to look for malignant cells when the person doesn’t show signs and symptoms of malignancy. If any abnormality is revealed by screening tests, additional tests are required to be performed.
The most common screening test performed for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. Other tests include:
Colorectal cancer is staged according to the TNM cancer staging system. It has five stages, three of which have three further sub-stages. Following are the stages of colorectal cancer:
The most common treatment used for colorectal cancer is surgery. Following are some procedures or surgeries performed to treat colon cancer:
Even though colorectal cancer can’t be completely prevented, steps can be taken to manage its risk factors. Some of those measures are given below:
If diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage, colorectal cancer can be successfully treated. However, if the cancer has already advanced by the time it's diagnosed, treatment becomes a lot more challenging.
An important part of dealing with colorectal cancer is self-care. However, everyone’s situation is different. Those treated for early-stage colorectal cancers may be free from cancer. For those with advanced disease, the treatment might ease the symptoms but complete cure is not always possible. Such patients benefit from palliative care that focuses on dealing with the symptoms of the cancer and the side effects of treatment.
The follow-up for colorectal cancer depends on the stage of the disease. For example, those who undergo surgical treatment for stage 0 and 1 colorectal cancer may be recommended to have a colonoscopy one year post-surgery, repeat colonoscopy three years post-surgery and repeat it again five years post-surgery. Another colonoscopy is done years after unless the follow-up colonoscopies reveal signs of malignancy.
Patients who have been treated for stages II or III colorectal cancer, on the other hand, are required to see their doctor more often. They have to undergo more frequent CEA blood tests, colonoscopies, and imaging tests.
If you have been treated for colorectal cancer but are now noticing any changes indicating the recurrence of the disease, you must contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If you are currently undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer, you must ask your doctor about the symptoms or side effects of the treatment that might require you to visit a healthcare provider. You may need to see a doctor if:
These days more people are taking time to undergo screening for cancers like colorectal cancer. Due to this, doctors are able to diagnose the disease at the right time and treat it accordingly. If any of your family members is suffering from the disease or you suspect having symptoms of colorectal cancer, you must contact a healthcare provider and seek necessary help. If you are located in Indore, you can visit the Centre for Cancer at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore and get an appointment with an expert doctor who will guide you to the next step.
All the staff members at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore are highly qualified and experienced in dealing with such procedures. Additionally, the centre is equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure and modern machines to assist the medical staff in performing procedures and ensuring optimum outcomes for patients with colorectal cancer.