Colorectal / Colon and Anal Cancer
Colorectal and anal cancer is cancer you don't want to play around with.
If you have blood in you stool or on your toilet paper, you should see a doctor ASAP, more than likely it's just hemorrhoids acting up, but it could also be a cancer telling you it's there.
So don't just assume your bleeding to be a sign of hemorrhoids. Also, anyone with bleeding hemorrhoids, should have their bleeding reviewed regularly, to make sure a cancer hasn't started to develop.
Defeating cancer means starting ASAP.
Cancer is one of the most frightening diseases in existence today.
Everyone has heard that there is no cure for cancer, but what many don't know is that cancer survivors abound.
The removal of all detectable cancer from within a system is referred to as remission, and while a cancer can come back for reasons that are not well understood, the longer a cancer survivor is in remission, the better chance they have that it will not come back.
The key to getting the best survival rate when you have cancer is, therefore, to catch it as early and to get as wide an education as possible.
Most cancers can be driven into remission with early enough treatment and consistent monitoring.
Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or large bowel cancer, is the third most common form cancer in the world.
It is also the second most common cause of cancer-related death.
As colorectal cancer often does not have any symptoms until quite advanced, annual screening by a physician is recommended for anyone over fifty or anyone who has risk factors for the disease.
The term, colorectal cancer is defined as any and all cancerous growths in the colon, rectum and all the way up to the appendix.
Colorectal tumors usually develop out of benign adenomatous polyps, which usually look like burgundy colored mushroom-shaped growths emerging from the colon.
Most colorectal cancer is diagnosed through colonoscopy, or in other words, a doctor taking a look with a tiny camera on a flexible lead.
Colorectal cancer treatment
Treatment usually involves surgery with chemotherapy coming afterwards.
Chemotherapy on its own does not have a good remission rate, and radiation therapy is not used for the colon due to the difficulty of precise targeting a tumor on the colon.
Radiation therapy is far more likely to be used on tumors of the rectum, as those are much less likely to move about and much easier to target.
Colorectal cancer symptoms
The closer a colorectal cancerous tumor is to the anus, the more likely it is to cause symptoms.
Some of those symptoms of colorectal cancer are changes in bowel habits, such as a change in frequency of bowel movements, a change in stool color, or a change in stool consistency.
Other colorectal cancer symptoms include bloody stools, stools with mucus, rectal bleeding, feeling of incomplete defecation, reduction in diameter of stools, bowel obstruction and tarry stools, although this last is more often associated with diseases of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Colorectal cancer can also cause symptoms of anemia, anorexia, weakness and unexplained weight loss.
Metastasis is a condition where the cancerous cells start causing tumors in other parts of the body and would cause symptoms common to cancers of the secondary location.
The most common metastases of colorectal cancer are liver and lung tumors.
Colorectal cancer risk factors or causes
The risk factors of colorectal cancer include age, which is why screening is recommended annually after age 50.
In addition, having benign polyps of the colon, a history of cancer, a family history of cancer, longstanding ulcers, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, a habit of smoking, a poor diet high in red meat and low in vegetables and fiber, physical inactivity, exposure to some strains of the human papilloma virus, low selenium intake, use of medical hormones, and excessive alcohol use are all additional risk factors and causes for colorectal disease.
In other words, there may be some risk factors beyond control, but by adopting a lifestyle in accordance with current medical knowledge of good health, many risk factors, i.e. causes, can be eliminated completely.
If you are subject to one of the risk factors beyond your control, it becomes even more important to minimize those causes you can.
Colorectal cancer and it's stages of development
If the disease is caught while localized to the colon only, the chances of remission and survival are five times the rate of survival for late stage cancers.
The difference between early and late stage cancers is whether the cancer has metastasized or not.
Surgery is also much easier when the tumor is found in early stages, as if the tumor is still small, it can be taken out and the incision healed without the need for a colostomy bag.
However, if surgery is done later, while it can still save your life, you may have to make uncomfortable lifestyle changes like the aforementioned colostomy bag.
All in all, it's much better both for survival and quality of life to catch it as early as possible.
Anal cancer, on the other hand, is much more rare.
It is related to skin cancer, and its highest risk factor is infection with certain strains of human papilloma virus, namely types 16 and 18.
The strains of HPV responsible for genital warts, which includes types 6, 11, 30, 42, 43, 44, 45, 51, 52, and 54 are not commonly linked to cancer, although any abnormal growth can become malignant.
Other risk factors include smoking, immunosuppression from either medications such as chemotherapy or from infection with HIV, and a history of inflammation from benign anal lesions such as hemorrhoids or anal fistulas.
Anal cancer treatment
Anal cancer is most easily treated before metastasis to nearby lymph nodes.
Any time a cancer metastasizes to other areas of the body, treatment gets more complicated as nobody knows where the cancerous cells are going to start growing next.
Traditional treatment of anal cancer has been surgery, which usually leaves the cancer survivor without a functioning anal sphincter.
This necessitates a colostomy bag from then on.
Recently, oncologist's have been attempting to treat anal cancers with combination approach using chemotherapy and radiation therapy to get around this problem.
Survival and cure rates using this new approach are very good, and most of the time the anal sphincter is left working and intact.
Some patients have reported a problem with fecal incontinence after this combination therapy, but it may still be preferable to the complete loss of the anal sphincter.
No method of treating anal cancer is by any means pleasant, so the best way to avoid anal cancer is to avoid infection with HPV, which means abstinence, safe sexual intercourse, and reasonable hygiene. Remember, the HPV strains that cause anal cancer do not show as anal warts
Colorectal cancer, anal cancer and how they are different from hemorrhoids
Both colorectal and anal cancer have symptoms which may cause them to be mistaken for far more benign diseases, like hemorrhoids.
It can frequently be difficult to tell the difference between these health problems, which is why seeing a doctor if a hemorrhoid hasn't gotten better within two weeks of beginning home treatment is recommended.
The biggest difference between the symptoms of hemorrhoids and those of colorectal cancer is that rectal bleeding from colorectal cancer will most likely be dark and/or already hardening while hemorrhoidal bleeding is usually bright red and very fresh.
Bowel obstruction and tarry stools are also not symptoms of hemorrhoids, but a feeling of incomplete defecation frequently is.
Anal cancer is even easier to confuse with hemorrhoids, as the symptoms are virtually identical.
Colorectal cancer, anal cancer and hemorrhoids in conclusion
Because these two forms of cancer can be deadly, go see a doctor if a hemorrhoid persists too long especially if you know you are subject to the risk factors of either.
Always feel free to get a second opinion, especially if the proposed treatment risks your life or your quality of life, but be prepared for all possible answers.
Remember, if either of these cancers are caught early, your prognosis is very good.
Research and main write by Loni L. Ice, editing and additional writing by D. S. Urquhart.
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