Among all the forms of cancer, the colorectal cancer is the second most spread cancer-related disease, losing only to the lung cancer. More than half of the people who were diagnosed colorectal cancer die within 5 years. It should also be taken into account that about 40% of patients die within the first year.
Such a depressing statistic shows that colorectal cancer is extremely hard to diagnose. Therefore, it’s crucial to know its symptoms in order to spot the disease as early as possible.
Factors causing the development of colorectal cancer:
Even today, scientists have not figured out what is the true cause of colorectal cancer. However, the major risk factors that contribute to its occurrence are nevertheless isolated:
● peculiarities of food consumption. If the person consumes too much meat and animal fat and too little of the vegetable fiber, it is likely that over time he/she can become seriously ill. High-calorie and easily digestible foods move through the bowel slower. Because of this, carcinogenic substances which may be incorporated into the food or produced by bacteria of the intestine, influence the rectum wall for far too long. It is known that colorectal cancer almost never occurs among vegetarians;
● elderly age. According to statistics, intestinal diseases are much more likely to affect people aged 50 years and older;
● long-existing inflammatory diseases and colon polyps;
● genetics. A person runs a higher risk of having colorectal cancer if his / her relatives had different forms of intestinal diseases.
The development of cancer pathology occurs suddenly, and oftentimes it does not depend on these factors.
Today, scientists are working hard to get to know the cause of this malignant disease.
The symptoms of the colorectal cancer
The symptoms of colorectal cancer can stay unspotted for a very long time and nothing seems to bother the patient. However, the appearance of the following symptoms should suggest cancer might be developing:
● drastic reduction of body weight;
● loss of appetite;
● continuous low-grade fever – a slight increase in body temperature without any clear reason (no colds or infections);
● nausea and vomiting.
Digestive disorders such as constipation or diarrhea are still one of the first signs of colorectal cancer. Tumor manifestations depend largely on their localization. For example, for tumors in the ascending and transverse colon, the major symptom is constipation. But when the rectum is struck, the following symptoms of cancer appear:
● rectal bleeding – from the appearance of blood veins in the stool to severe, incessant bleeding;
● a feeling of unfinished defecation;
● a feeling of a foreign body in the rectum.
Cancer of the sigmoid colon may manifest itself with diarrhea, flatulence, and pains in the left side of the abdomen. Cancer of the cecum is much rarer and often manifests itself with the digestive disorder and prolonged constipation which can progress into a full intestinal obstruction. Intestinal obstruction is also one of the leading symptoms of colorectal cancer in its late stages. This is due to the fact that the growing tumor simply closes the lumen of the intestine, preventing the passage of stool. The appearance of any of the above symptoms is a serious cause for treatment and contacting the doctor for a thorough inspection.
Colorectal cancer does not spread very fast. First, the tumor takes a long time growing up and down the bowel. It is believed that in order for the tumor to completely “wrap around” the rectum it takes about 1.5-2 years. Subsequently, the tumor invades the bowel wall, fiber, and pelvis as well as adjacent organs. Together with the blood and lymph, cancer cells spread through the body and form new tumor lesions (metastasis). The colorectal cancer is characterized by metastasis to the liver, the lungs, and the nearby lymph nodes.
The treatment methods
To get rid of cancer, different techniques are being used, in particular surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The medical treatment of colorectal cancer, like any other cancer for that matter, is a very difficult and lengthy process. The best results are usually produced by the surgery, as it removes the tumor and surrounding tissue. This is done in order to prevent metastasis (spreading of cancer onto the other organs and tissues).
Note that the surgery is very complex and often leads to the patient’s disability – in the course of a surgery, a large section of the intestine is removed. In some situations, it is necessary to transfer the rectum to the side surface of the abdomen.
To provide an effective treatment for colorectal cancer, the following methods are also used:
● radiotherapy is used as a preparatory stage for surgical treatment (can also be used during the post-surgery period);
● chemotherapy involves the introduction of cytotoxic drugs that have a detrimental effect on the tumor. Unfortunately, these drugs have a negative effect on the healthy cells as well, so chemotherapy has many unpleasant side effects: hair loss, nausea, and vomiting. That’s why chemotherapy is often accompanied by the appointment of chemotherapy drugs that reduce the severity of complications like antiemetic drugs and nutritional agents.
Life expectancy for patients with the colorectal cancer
The consequences of the diagnosed colorectal cancer largely depend on the stage at which the tumor was detected. The early stages are the best in terms of the forecast as the absence of metastasis significantly increases a favorable outcome. It is possible to expect the patient’s full recovery. Later stages of colorectal cancer suggest the most unfavorable prognosis. Nearly 100% of these patients die within a year or live 2-3 years at most which are why it is so important to detect this form of cancer in its earliest stages.
Preventing the colorectal cancer
The initial colorectal cancer prevention measures are aimed at identifying its early symptoms. To increase the chance of survival, the patient must be aware of the early signs of the disease. This also includes the elimination of risk factors, proper nutrition, avoiding contacts with hazardous substances and a healthy lifestyle.
Secondary prevention measure is a regular medical examination which allows revealing subtle signs of colorectal cancer. During the preventive medical examination, the patient can be assigned to undergo a colonoscopy.
By the way, in Japan colonoscopy is mandatory for people over 35 years of age. The procedure is held annually, and after reaching the age of 45 – up to two times per year. This has reduced the death rate from colorectal cancer by as much as twice.