March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The month offers healthcare providers who care for patients with diseases of the colon and rectum a valuable opportunity to educate their community and promote awareness of the importance of colorectal cancer screening, prevention, and treatment.
Colorectal cancer is a disease that starts in the lower portion of the digestive system. About 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women will develop this cancer at some point in their lives, according to the American Cancer Society.
Colorectal cancer doesn’t only impact those who live with it — the disease also has ripple effects on their loved ones and communities.
Here’s what you need to know about it:
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Dr. Inder Maurya, Founder and CEO Foreign OPD explains, “Colonrectal cancer is the most common type of gastrointestinal cancer. It occurs in the colon or rectum. Adenocarcinomas comprise the vast majority (98%) of colon and rectal cancers; more rare rectal cancers include lymphoma (1.3%), carcinoid (0.4%), and sarcoma (0.3%).”
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Signs and symptoms
- Rectal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Change in bowel habits
- Intestinal obstruction or perforation
Physical findings may include the following:
Early disease: Nonspecific findings (fatigue, weight loss) or none at all
More advanced disease: Abdominal tenderness, macroscopic rectal bleeding, palpable abdominal mass, hepatomegaly, ascites.
What are the causes of colorectal cancer?
Dr. Inder said, “It is a multifactorial disease process, with etiology encompassing genetic factors, environmental exposures (including diet), and inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract.”
- A high-fat, low-fiber diet is implicated in the development of colorectal cancer
- Following cholecystectomy,
- The relative risk of developing colorectal cancer is increased in the first-degree relatives of affected patients.
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Hereditary non polyposis colorectal cancer ulcerative colitis (UC)
What are the treatments available for this?
A joint guideline developed by the American Cancer Society, US Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology recommends that screening for colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps should start at age 50 years in asymptomatic men and women.
A multidisciplinary approach that includes surgery, medical oncology, and radiation oncology is required for optimal treatment of patients with colorectal cancer, explained Dr. Inder.
What is the survival rate for colorectal cancer?
The approximate 5-year survival rate for colorectal cancer patients in the United States (all stages included) is 64.6%. Survival is inversely related to the stages: approximate 5-year relative survival rates are as follows:
- Localized disease: 90.2%
- Regional disease: 71.8%
- Distant disease: 14.3%