What you need to know about colorectal cancer

Doctor's advice, Older Adults / Sanitas

What you need to know about colorectal cancer

At Sanitas, your health is our priority, that's why we need you and your family to stay informed about Colorectal Cancer (also known as colon cancer). This type of cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer in the United States.

Colorectal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.
Colorectal cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp inside the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer 

Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. That is why the screening test is so important in adulthood. The risk factors for developing Colorectal Cancer are:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
  • Lack of regular physical activity.
  • A diet low in fruit and vegetables.
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats.
  • Being overweight or obese: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of getting cancer
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Tobacco use.

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer
Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Screening for colorectal cancer becomes vitally important as you age. When symptoms appear, they'll likely vary, depending on the cancer's size and location in your large intestine. Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool that persists over time
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool.
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain.
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss. 

Types of Colorectal Cancer

There are several types of colorectal cancer, based on where it starts.

  • Adenocarcinoma. This is the most common kind, making up 96% of cases. It starts in cells that make mucus for your colon and rectum.
  • Carcinoid tumor. This begins in cells that make hormones.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor. This forms in cells in the wall of your colon that tell your gastrointestinal muscles to move food or liquid along.
  • Lymphoma. This is cancer of your immune system cells.
  • Sarcoma. This starts in connective tissues like blood vessels or muscle layers.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests

Since Colorectal cancer has its presentation in adulthood, screening begins after 45 years. These might be:

  • Stool sample: This screening is called Cologuard, is designed to look for blood and malignant cells in the stool.  It is done every 3 year. For this screening test, you receive a test kit from your health care provider. At home, you use a stick or brush to obtain a small amount of stool. You return the test kit to the doctor or a lab.
  • Colonoscopy:  In this screening test, the doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. Colonoscopy also is used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during one of the other screening tests. This screening is done every 5 years if you are not using the Cologuard test.

 Ask for information on colorectal screening and which is better for you in your Sanitas center of preference. Schedule your appointment today.
Diagnosis of colorectal cancer 

If you've been diagnosed with colon cancer during the screening, your primary care provider is going to refer you to a gastroenterologist. The specialist, according to your condition and results, may order other tests to determine the extent (stage) of your cancer. Staging helps determine what treatments are most appropriate for you.
The different stages of colorectal cancer are: 

  • Stage 0: Cancer hasn’t gone past the inner layer of your colon or rectum. This is also called cancer in situ.
  • Stage 1: Cancer has grown into the muscles of your colon or rectum.
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread through your colon or rectum wall and into nearby tissues.
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread to four or more lymph nodes
  • Stage 4: Cancer has grown in the lining of your abdomen and possibly to lymph nodes or organs that are farther away.

Colorectal cancer treatment

The Treatment depends on how far it has spread. Treatments include: 

  • Surgery: Your doctor can take out polyps and small tumors that haven’t spread during a colonoscopy or through a laparoscopy. If the cancer is more advance more different surgeries are going to be needed.
  • Chemotherapy: Using special medicines to shrink or kill cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
  • Radiation: Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the er. External radiation therapy is the most common form

These different treatments may be provided by different doctors on your medical team, such as: 

  • Gastroenterologists are doctors who have been trained to treat cancers of the digestive system.
  • Surgeons are doctors who perform operations.
  • Medical oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with medicine.
  • Radiation oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with radiation.


By making changes in your everyday life, you can prevent Colorectal cancer and others cancer and chronic diseases. We strongly recommend:

  • Healthy diet:  Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get an array of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Alcohol in moderation: If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
  • Avoid or stop smoking. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit that may work for you.
  • Exercise most days of the week. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. You can talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
  • Maintain a healthy weight If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy ways to achieve your goal.
  • Do not skip your Colorectal cancer screening. Ask for your Colorectal cancer screening when you meet with your Sanitas primary care doctor. Schedule your appointment today.

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