Colorectal Cancer

If abnormal growth of the cells in the colon or rectum takes the shape of a tumor, the disease is called colorectal cancer. The cancerous cells start affecting the inner layer of tissues in either the colon or the rectum and then spread to other layers. More deep these layers affected, more advanced is the stage of cancer in patient’s body.

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It is similarly common in men and women. An expected 146,970 people will be diagnosed in 2009, and an expected 49,920 people will die from the disease. With suggested screening, this cancer can be prohibited (by removing polyps before they become cancerous) or detect early, when it can be extra easily and successfully treated.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month & Ribbon
Month March
Ribbon Brown Color

Colorectal Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Early stages of colorectal cancer do not usually have symptoms. Advanced disease may cause:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in or on the stool
  • Change in bowel habits or stools that are narrower than usual
  • Stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps)
  • Diarrhea, constipation or emotion that the bowel do not empty completely
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Constant fatigue
  • Vomiting

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Surgery is the most general treatment, When the cancer has increase, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is prearranged before or after surgery.

Colorectal Cancer Early Detection

If you be at average risk for colorectal cancer, start having normal screening at age 50.  If you are at better risk, you may need to start regular screening at an previous age. The most excellent time to get screened is before any symptoms come into view. Use this guide to assist you discuss screening option with your health care specialized. Consider one of the following:
Screening intervals for tests that find pre-cancer and cancer:

  • Colonoscopy: Every 10 years
  • Virtual colonoscopy: Every 5 years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Every 5 years
  • Double-contrast barium enema: Every 5 years

Screening intervals for tests that mainly find cancer:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): Every year
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): Every year
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA): Ask your health care experts

Any abnormal effect of a virtual colonoscopy or double-contrast barium enema, as fine as a positive FOBT, FIT or sDNA test, should be follow up with a colonoscopy.

Colorectal Cancer At Risk

  • Men and women age 50 and older
  • People who make use of tobacco, are heavy or are sedentary
  • People with a individual or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
  • People with a individual or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as extensive standing ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer.

Test & Procedures

The following are the tests done to detect colorectal cancer:

Fecal occult blood test (FOBT):

There are two types of FOBT conducted by health providers.

  • Guaiac FOBT: This procedure uses the chemical guaiac to determine heme, the iron-containing constituent of the blood protein hemoglobin, in stool sample.
  • Immunochemical FOBT: This method uses antibodies to identify human hemoglobin protein in stool sample.

According to studies, if FOBT will be conducted in every 1 or 2 years in people of ages 50 to 80, death toll due to colorectal cancer may reduce by 15 to 33 percent.


In this method a lighted device called sigmoidoscope finds the cancerous and pre-cancerous cells in the rectum and lower colon. During this test the affected cells can be found and they can be removed or biopsied. A cleaned lower colon is required for this method.


In this method of detecting colorectal cancer, a lighted instrument known as colonoscope is used. The rectum and both the upper and lower colon are examined to find affected cells. The cancerous cells can be removed or biopsied. Patient may receive some sedation and the entire colon is cleaned before undergoing this test.

Virtual colonoscopy/ computerized tomographic colonography:

In this method of detecting colorectal cancer, photos of colon and rectum are produced by using special x-ray instrument. The computer brings the pictures together and images are checked for polyps and other anomalies. Sedation is not required for this test but thorough cleansing of colon is a must for this test.

Double contrast barium enema (DCBE)

In this method of detecting colorectal cancer the patient is given an enema with a barium solution and air has to be introduced into the colon. Then a sequence of x-rays is taken to detect cancer as barium and air united to delineate the colon and rectum.

Preventive measures

The following are some of the preventive measure to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer:

  • Once you reach at the age of 45 get screened for colorectal cancer in a regular interval as suggested by the doctor.
  • Consume more vegetables, fruits and whole grain in your meals.
  • Stop drinking and smoking.
  • Exercise regularly. It is better to start exercise after consulting with your doctor.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Consume calcium-rich foods like low-fat or skim milk.
  • Limit red meat consumption and avoid processed meats.

Treatment Cost

As per survey reports, the treatment cost of colorectal cancer at an early stage may be approximately $30,000 per patient. Similarly, a patient may have to spend as much as $120,000 towards the treatment cost of colorectal cancer at the late stage. However, the mode of treatment varies from one case to another and the cost may also differ.

Side Effects

The side effects of colorectal cancer treatment are temporary and being mentally prepared to handle these is half the battle. The following are some of the side effects of different procedures of colorectal cancer treatment:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abscesses within the pelvis
  • Allergic reactions
  • Swelling around the incision
  • Taste changes
  • Blood clots around a central catheter
  • Bones and joints pain
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Chest pain
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cognitive changes
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Watery eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in nails
  • Medication is available to reduce these side effects and doctors can help a lot in this regard.

A to Z Cancer Types