Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US. Only lung cancer kills more Americans. In 2005, about 145,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, with The American Cancer Society predicting 56,000 colorectal cancer deaths. More than five percent of Americans can expect to get the disease in their lifetimes. Today, about 50% of those diagnosed die within five years.
Colorectal cancer begins without symptoms. Effective screening is critical because when found early, the cancer is curable in at least 90%. Screening also prevents cancer by discovering pre-cancerous growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum (polyps) allowing them to be removed before cancer develops.
But many people still don’t get screened. Maybe they don’t have the facts, feel awkward, or just postpone the issue. We at GASTROCare® are committed to saving lives by doing all we can to educate our patients and the public about the importance of timely and effective colorectal cancer screening.
What is Colorectal Cancer? Cancer occurs when cells start multiplying out of control due to genetic or environmental factors or both. Cancer originating in the colon is called colon cancer, while cancer in the rectum is called rectal cancer. The term colorectal cancer refers to both.
Where and What is the Colon? The main job of the colon, also called the large intestine, is to recycle fluid and some remaining nutrients from the digested food passing into it from the small intestine. In a typical day, over nine liters of fluid pass through the colon walls. This consists not only of liquids drunk that day, but the fluids circulating through the body as part of the digestive process. The rectum is at the end of the colon connecting it to the anus and the outside of the body.
What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer? Colorectal cancer quite often develops without any noticeable symptoms. This is why screening for early detection is essential, especially if you're in a high risk group.
Undetected, colorectal cancer may eventually produce symptoms such as:
Blood in or on the stool; red, dark red, or black stool
Changes in bowel habits, such as narrower stools
Abdominal discomfort (gas pains, fullness, cramps, etc)
Weight loss for no apparent reason
Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not
These are the most common symptoms of colorectal cancer, but may also be symptoms of other digestive disorders. Contact your gastroenterologist promptly if you have or develop any of these symptoms.