The rectum and colon include the colon or colon. The rectum is the last six inches of the colon and connects the colon to the anus.
Rectal and/or colon cancer is called colorectal cancer and is the fourth most common cancer in the United States. Both cancers are grouped because they have multiple characteristics and the same treatment.
Approximately one-third of the 145,000 cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year are in the rectum. Rectal cancer occurs when cells in the rectum mutate and grow out of control. The disease can also develop when tumors, called polyps, grow inside the inner wall of the rectum and become cancerous.
The risk of rectal cancer increases with age. The average age of a person diagnosed with colorectal cancer is 68 years. Men are at a higher risk than women. Regular examinations and life changes can reduce the risk of rectal cancer and prevent or detect the disease in time:
- Eat less red and processed meat and lots of fiber and vegetables
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol consumption
What causes rectal cancer?
Although the exact cause of rectal cancer is not known, cancers such as cancer cells grow and multiply uncontrollably. These cells can penetrate and destroy healthy tissue. What caused this process is not always clear.
Some inherited gene mutations can increase your risk of rectal cancer. One of them is hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also called Lynch syndrome. The disease further increases the risk of colon cancer and other cancers. In some cases, your doctor may recommend bowel movements as a precautionary measure.
Another genetic disease that can cause rectal cancer is familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). It is a rare disease that can cause polyps to grow in the lining of the colon and rectum.
If these polyps become non-cancerous, they may become malignant. Most people with FAP have cancer before the age of 50. Colon removal can also be a preventative operation that your doctor may recommend.
What are the symptoms of rectal cancer?
Initially, rectal cancer may be asymptomatic. As cancer progresses, rectal bleeding is the most common symptom. There may be changes in your defecation that take more than a few days. You may also experience unexplained weakness and fatigue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:
- rectal bleeding
- changes in how often you have a stool
- feeling that your gut is not empty
- pain when you have dirt
- diarrhea or constipation
- blood or mucus in the stool
- unwanted weight loss and changes in appetite
- unexplained fatigue
constant abdominal discomfort, flatulence, cramps, pain
Another possible symptom of rectal cancer is iron deficiency anemia, which can occur due to blood loss.
Types of rectal cancer
Rectal adenocarcinoma: Most rectal cancers – about 95 percent – are adenocarcinomas. These tumors usually begin as a polyp or grow in the rectal mucosa.
Polyps can be removed by colonoscopy. Other types of rectal cancer include:
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
- Carcinoid tumors
Diagnosis and treatment of rectal cancer
Various laboratory and imaging tests can be used to diagnose rectal cancer and determine the stage of the disease. Commonly used methods and tools include:
- Laboratory tests such as blood tests and advanced genomic tests
- Imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound
These tests can also be used to check your response to treatment.
Rectal cancer treatment
Treatment for rectal cancer usually depends on the stage of the disease and the extent to which it has developed. Treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy
- Direct therapy
- Clinical trials
If rectal cancer is detected early, active surveillance may be an option for some patients. During active supervision, the doctor carefully monitors the patient for signs of cancer. Patients may undergo several tests during active observation, including digital rectal examination, MRI, and/or colonoscopy.
Integral rectal cancer care
The symptoms of rectal cancer and the side effects of treatment can affect your quality of life. Integrated health services can help manage some of these side effects. In patients with rectal cancer, these services may include:
- Nutritional support
- Pain management
- Body and mind support
- Spiritual support