What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer can be described as a form of cancer that afflicts the colon or the rectum of an individual.  Cancer that starts forming in the colon is known as colon cancer whereas the one that starts forming in the rectum is known as rectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer affects the bowel region of an individual and is therefore, also referred to as bowel cancer.  Bowel cancer is often associated with a change in bowel habits and bleeding in an individual.
Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer Causes

Cancer is typically caused by an exponential increase in the number of cells, which are not required by the body. These additional cells grow up to form a mass of tissue often known as a tumor. The tumor might be harmless (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Cells from the malignant tumors often break away and spread to other parts of the body.

Rectal cancer and colon cancer typically start with the formation of a polyp (an abnormal growth) in the inner lining of the rectum or the colon.  A majority of these polyps can be benign though some of them have the tendency of becoming malignant. An early removal of these polyps can help in preventing bowel cancer.

Colorectal Cancer: Common Risk Factors

The exact causes are not known. However, various studies have helped identify the common risk factors for developing this form of cancer. These risk factors are listed below:

  • Age of 50 or more: Ageing increases your likelihood of developing bowel cancer. Almost 90% of the cases of this type of cancer are detected in people who are 50 years or more.
  • An occurrence of colorectal polyps: Some colorectal polyps, if left unattended, might become malignant. Therefore, it is best advised to find and remove polyps at the earliest.
  • Family history of bowel cancer: If your close relatives such as brothers, sisters, or parents have had this type of cancer at a young age, it increases your likelihood of developing bowel cancer.
  • Previous history of cancer: A person who has previously had this form of cancer has an increased likelihood of developing it a second time. Women who have had ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer are at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer.
  • Dietary habits: People who eat food that is rich in fat but low on fiber, calcium, and folate are also at a greater risk of developing bowel cancer.
  • Genetic modifications: Changes in genes also attribute to an increased risk for developing this cancer. Changes in the HNPCC gene or the APC gene can cause colorectal cancer.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: People suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases like Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease are also at a higher risk of developing colorectal or bowel cancer.

In a vast majority of the cases, bowel cancer can be treated if detected at an early stage. Certain measures that can be taken to reduce your chances of developing bowel cancer include being aware of the symptoms and understanding the risk factors.

It is best advised to seek an appointment with your doctor if you observe any abnormal symptoms. The doctor might then advise bowel cancer screening if needed.

An increased rate of awareness about the symptoms and prompt screening has attributed towards a significant reduction in the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer.