What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the cancer of the rectum and colon. Colorectal cancer occurs when the cells in the colon and/or the rectum develop a DNA error that causes them to mutate. These damaged cells become cancerous and continue to grow into a tumor, which has the ability to destroy the nearby tissue and spread the cancer to other parts of the body.
Colorectal happens to be the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country for both men and women. It comes second only to lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. The frequency of colorectal cancer affecting men and women is almost tantamount. On an average, the entire American population has a 5% chance of developing colorectal cancer in their lifetime. However, there are certain people who run a higher chance of developing the disease.
Who is at Risk?
There are several factors that may increase your risk of getting colorectal cancer. These factors include:
- Old Age – A large majority of colorectal cancer patients are usually over the age of 50
- Genetic Predisposition – Genetic syndromes like hereditary nonpolyposis and familial adenomatous polyposis colorectal cancer passed to you through family generations may put you at a greater risk of colorectal cancer.
ColoTrue®, our genetic test for colorectal cancer, analyzes 13 high-risk colorectal cancer genes in you to determine your genetic predisposition for the disease.
- Intestinal Inflammation – Chronic inflammatory intestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis also increase chances of colorectal cancer.
- People who are diabetic have greater chances of getting this cancer.
- Excessive Drinking & Smoking – Heavy alcohol consumption and chain smoking also leads to greater colorectal cancer risks.
- Inactivity & Obesity – If you are obese or living a sedentary lifestyle, you are at a greater risk of getting colorectal cancer.
- High-Fat, Low Fiber Diet – Not eating a balanced diet with adequate amount of fiber can lead to higher risk of colorectal cancer. Diet high in calories and fats also puts you at risk.
The Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
The medical world often terms colorectal cancer as a silent disease. It usually develops with almost no visible symptoms at all. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that may point towards a possible case of colorectal cancer. These symptoms may include:
- Unusual change in your bowel habits
- Blood traces on or in your stool
- Abnormally narrow stools
- Rectal bleeding
- Constant unexplained fatigue
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Stomach discomfort that may include cramps, fullness, or bloating
- Frequent gas pains
When to See the Doctor?
As you may have noticed, most of the above mentioned symptoms can occur in normal everyday life too. If the same symptoms appear continuously over a period of two weeks or more, visit a healthcare professional immediately.
It is not necessary that everyone who experiences these symptoms is bound to have colorectal cancer, but their unusual persistence calls for a proactive approach in dealing with the matter – if not the cancer, it does pay to determine the underlying reason behind these conditions.
Be careful, be vigilant.