After a twenty-year period in which the development of colorectal cancer among white Americans under the age of 55 was reported as declining, new evidence shows an increase in the disease. A recent study conducted by the American Cancer Society, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, uncovered this worrying development and experts are urging an increase in awareness of the disease to help combat the rise.
Colorectal cancer describes colon cancer and bowel cancer. They typically occur in the lower part of the large intestine and are accompanied by a range of symptoms. If caught early, there’s a 50 percent chance that treatment will be a complete success. Late diagnosis often results in a less positive outcome.
Causes of colorectal cancer
Over the years, medical research experts have discovered the causes of different types of cancers and other serious illnesses. Many causes are connected with diet and lifestyle, but there are some that are less obvious or easy to alter.
When it comes to colon cancer and bowel cancer, causes of the debilitating disease include:
- A diet high in saturated fats and low in fiber
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Old age
- Family history of colon cancer or bowel cancer
- Polyps in your rectum or the lowers parts of your large intestine
- History of irritable bowel illness such as colitis and crohns disease
To help raise awareness of the disease and give you a better understanding of when you should be concerned, here are the most common symptoms of colon and bowel cancer:
- More frequent visits to the toilet, without any significant changes in your lifestyle
- Blood in stools (feces)
- Feeling as though your bowel isn’t empty, even after going to the toilet
- A bloated abdomen
- Feeling full, even if you haven’t eaten for some time
- Any regular, unexplained pain in the abdomen
- Unexplained fatigue or tiredness
- Inexplicable weight loss
- A lump in your tummy or back passage when your doctor examines you
- Unexpected development of iron deficiency in men, or in women post-menopause
Of course, a number of these symptoms are associated with other, sometimes less serious, illnesses too. However, if you experience a combination of three or more and have no explanation as to why they’ve begun, you should book an appointment with your doctor.
Even if it turns out to be something else entirely, your doctor will be happy to examine you and rule the possibility of colorectal cancer out as quickly as possible.
How colorectal cancer is treated
We know that no one wants to be diagnosed with colon cancer or bowel cancer. But, if you are unfortunate enough to have the disease, the current treatment to beat it can be successful – particularly if you’re diagnosed early on.
The treatment you receive for colorectal cancer depends on a number of factors, including the stage of the cancer, the exact location of the disease and your age, too – among others. The main treatments are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
With colorectal cancer, surgery is the most common treatment. That’s because it is usually possible to remove the polyps that typically cause the caner and also remove the infected part of the bowel or colon. A colostomy bag is often required for a short period of time and between surgeries. But, once the bowel is repaired, the need for a bag is eliminated.
In cases where the diagnosis is early and the cancer hasn’t spread far, surgery is able to cure the sufferer completely. In other cases, further treatment may be required.
As in other types of cancer, radiotherapy is where high energy radiation beams are used to try and shrink the cancer cells. It can also be used in an attempt to stop the cancer cells from multiplying and spreading.
Radiotherapy tends to be used in conjunction with other treatments. It can be used to try and shrink the cells before surgery. Or it can be prescribed after surgery too, in an attempt to try and stop the cells from multiplying.
A common treatment for colon cancer, chemotherapy uses strong chemical medicines to destroy the cancer cells. It can also be used in combination with other treatments to facilitate a more successful outcome.
Indeed, studies have shown that when chemotherapy is used in patients with advanced colon cancer and familial history of colorectal cancer, they have a lower chance of a recurrence of the disease.
When in doubt, speak to your doctor
As with other forms of cancer, colorectal cancer is a potentially debilitating disease. But, if it’s diagnosed and treated early, the results are more likely to be successful.
If you feel there might be something sinister happening to you that could be related to colon cancer or bowel cancer, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. They will either put your mind at rest or follow up on your concerns and help ensure you get well again.
The discomfort and upset of having colorectal cancer won’t be pleasant. But removing those cells from your body and enjoying an active and healthy life afterwards is a much better outcome than what could happen if you don’t follow up on your concerns.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.