Monday, April 23, 2012

5 Colorectal cancer symptoms we need to know

Know the symptoms of colorectal cancer before it strikes you out.

Colorectal cancer, commonly known as bowel cancer, is a cancer from uncontrolled cell growth in the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine), or in the appendix. Symptoms typically include rectal bleeding and anemia which are sometimes associated with weight loss and changes in bowel habits.

Most colorectal cancer occurs due to lifestyle and increasing age with only a minority of cases associated with underlying genetic disorders. It typically starts in the lining of the bowel and if left untreated, can grow into the muscle layers underneath, and then through the bowel wall. Screening is effective at decreasing the chance of dying from colorectal cancer and is recommended starting at the age of 50 and continuing until a person is 75 years old. Localized bowel cancer is usually diagnosed through sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Cancers that are confined within the wall of the colon are often curable with surgery while cancer that has spread widely around the body is usually not curable and management then focuses on extending the person's life via chemotherapy and improving quality of life. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, but it is more common in developed countries.

Around 60% of cases were diagnosed in the developed world. It is estimated that worldwide, in 2008, 1.23 million new cases of colorectal cancer were clinically diagnosed, and that it killed 608,000 people.

5 Classical Symptoms of Colon or Colorectal cancer

Blood in the Stool 

Rectal bleeding is a common symptom of rectal cancer. It may not always be apparent, though. The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) detects blood in the stool that cannot be seen. It is also associated with less severe health problems, such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Rectal bleeding may be hidden and chronic and may show up as an iron deficiency anemia.

Thin Stools

 A change in the pattern of a bowel movement to thin or ribbon-like stools may indicate a problem. A growth in the color or rectum that is partially obstructing the bowel can change the size and shape of stool as it exits the body. Other conditions may also cause thin stools, like a large benign polyp or hemorrhoids

How thin is too thin? A thin stool is considered to be as thin as a pencil. If you consistently notice thinner stools, and this is a change for you (even if they aren't as thin as a pencil) let your doctor know. 

Sensation of Rectal Pressure or Fullness

If you feel like you have to empty your bowel, even after just doing so, or feel you are repeatedly not emptying your bowel fully, talk to your doctor. A mass in your rectum can give you that sensation. 

If the tumor gets large enough, it may completely or partially block your colon. You may notice the following symptoms of bowel obstruction:

  • Abdominal distension: Your belly sticks out more than it did before without weight gain.
  • Abdominal pain: This is rare in colon cancer. One cause is tearing (perforation) of the bowel. Leaking of bowel contents into the pelvis can cause inflammation (peritonitis) and infection.

Fatigue and Unexplained weight loss

Fatigue that last more than a few days can indicate a medical problem. Fatigue related to rectal cancer can be due to anemia, because of blood loss in the stool. Like other symptoms of rectal cancer, fatigue is a vague symptom and can be related to many other less serious conditions. 

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common side effects of colorectal cancer and its treatment. It is not predictable by tumor type, treatment, or stage of illness. Usually, it comes on suddenly, does not result from activity or exertion, and is not relieved by rest or sleep. It is often described as "paralyzing" and may continue even after treatment is complete.

Rectal pain

Pain rarely occurs with colon cancer and usually indicates a bulky tumor in the rectum that may invade surrounding tissue.

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