Colorectal cancer is a malignant tumor which occurs in the longest part of your large intestine. Your colon is an important part of your digestive system and absorbs water and nutrients from food while also serving as a storage place for waste matter (stool). Your stool moves from the colon into the rectum, the last 6 inches of the digestive system. Both colon and rectal cancer have many similar features in common.
Most colon and rectal cancers begin as small abnormal growths of tissue called polyps that form in these areas of the digestive system. A polyp is not cancer, but it can change into cancer over time.
Individuals with colorectal polyps or cancer may have no symptoms at all, especially in the beginning stages. That’s why it’s so important to get a colorectal screening called a colonoscopy starting at age fifty, or earlier if you have a family history of the disease. Pay close attention to your body and talk to your doctor if you suspect something is not normal for you.
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
- Diarrhea, constipation or the feeling that the bowel has not emptiedUnusually narrow stools
- Bloody stools
- Bloating, cramping, fullness and/or frequent gas pains
- Unexplained weight loss
- Continuous fatigue
If you experience these symptoms for more than two weeks, see your doctor. Colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers are much easier to treat if caught early.
Colorectal Cancer Risks
Colon and rectal cancer risk factors include:
- Excess belly fat
- A diet high in red and processed meat
- Heavy alcohol consumption
A diet high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, along with a regular exercise program, may help lower colorectal cancer risk and reduce polyps.
Additional steps you can take include:
- Increase the intensity and amount of your physical activity
- Limit your intake of red and processed meats
- Get recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D supplements
- Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
- Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection
- Avoid excess alcohol
Depending on the type and stage of colorectal cancer when it is diagnosed, treatment can include some non-surgical options, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. With colorectal surgery, there are minimally invasive treatments which in some cases can reverse a colostomy after surgery and spare other nearby vital organs.
Make an Appointment
For an appointment with a specialist, call
Find a Doctor
Our providers can find the best solution just for you.
Read More in Our Blog
Hear from one of our colorectal cancer surgeons.
Learn more about the MedStar Cancer Care Network.