General Health Tips & News

Colorectal Cancer: What are its Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment?

By S.I. (staff writer) , published on February 22, 2024

Medicine Telehealth Health cancer colon rectum

What is Colorectal Cancer?


The digestive system is responsible for the breakdown of food so that the body can use energy derived from the food. The large intestine is the last part of the digestive system, and the colon is the first and the longest part of the large intestine. The uncontrolled growth of cells in the colon causes colon cancer.  Rectal cancer is the excessive growth of cells in the rectum. Cancer that affects either of these parts is called colorectal cancer. [1]


Colon cancer usually begins as polyps, a small clump of cells. Polyps are typically non-cancerous, but they can turn into cancer over time if left untreated. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is caused by mutations that target oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, and genes related to DNA repair mechanisms [2]. Colorectal carcinoma is also associated with age, chronic diseases, history, and lifestyle.




What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?


Colorectal carcinoma is initially asymptomatic.  Symptoms usually appear depending on the size and location of the tumor in the large intestine.


Some significant symptoms of colon cancer are as follows [3]:

  • Changes in the bowel systems
  • Frequent diarrhea or recurrent constipation
  • Bleeding in the rectum
  • Bleeding in stool
  • Discomfort in the abdominal area
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal Gas
  • Lethargy

Losing weight with no efforts

  • A feeling that the bowel does not empty at all during the bowel movement


These symptoms can help in the diagnosis of colorectal carcinoma.




What are the Causes of Colorectal Cancer?


The leading cause of colorectal cancer is changes in your genetic material (DNA). DNA is responsible for the activities of the cell. A mutation in the DNA of colon cells leads to the uncontrolled production of cells, causing colorectal cancer.


The exact cause of genetic changes that lead to colorectal cancer is unknown, but the genetic changes that increase the risk of colorectal cancer are inherited. [4]


Some other factors that increase your risk of colorectal cancer are lifestyle, dietary habits, environment, family history of colorectal cancer, having chronic ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, having a history of adenomas, smoking cigarettes, and obesity.




What are the Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer?


The treatment options for colorectal cancer depend on the age, general health, stage, and type of the cancer [5]:


  • Surgery: The surgery depends on the stage of the cancer. For example, surgery for early-stage colon cancer is less invasive. If the tumor has grown to a large size, the surgery options include partial colectomy, surgery to create a way for waste to leave the body, and lymph node removal.


  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves using certain drugs to kill cancer cells before or after surgery.


  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses powerful energy beams such as protons to kill cancer cells.


  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy uses medicines that kill specific chemicals in cancer cells.


  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy augments the body's immune system to kill cancer cells. 






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