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Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Colorectal cancer usually begins as small noncancerous (benign) polyps. If untreated, these polyps become cancerous. The majority of patients with polyps are asymptomatic until cancer forms, hence the need for screening.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

  • A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, lasting longer than four weeks
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • The sensation of not being able to empty your bowels
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss

Causes of Colorectal Cancer

There is no known reason, but some factors may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

  • A personal history of colon polyps.
  • A family member with colon polyps or colorectal cancer
  • African-American and Indian Americans should start screening at 45 years old
  • History of IBD, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
  • Low fiber, high fat diet
  • Being inactive
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Radiation therapy

Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer

Doctors suggest a screening at 50 years old. African Americans and American Indians as early as 45. Finding colon cancer at its earliest stage provides the greatest chance for a cure. During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist can remove the polyps and send to the lab for a biopsy.