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Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer is the name for a cancer that is located in two parts of the body - large and small intestines. Colon cancer originates in the tissues of the longest part of large intestine, while rectal cancer is found in the tissues of the rectum.

Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas. The other type of colon cancers are made up of less common cell types including neuroendocrine tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), carcinoid tumors, lymphomas, melanomas, leiomyosarcomas, and signet ring cell tumors.

What Causes Colon Cancer?

There is no single cause of intestinal cancer. Several risk factors may play a role in its development. People at risk for colorectal cancer could be a person, who:

  • Is in the age group of 45 and above.
  • Has a mother, father, sister, or brother, who developed colorectal cancer or polyps. When more than one family member has had colorectal cancer, the risk to other members may be three-to-four times higher of developing the disease. This higher risk may be due to an inherited gene.
  • Have history of benign growths, such as polyps, that may have been surgically removed.
  • Have a prior history of colon or rectal cancer.
  • Have disease or condition linked with increased risk.
  • Have a diet high in fat and low in fiber.

What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer can have many symptoms. However, in the early stages, people with colon cancer often have no symptoms at all.

Some of the more common local symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Changes in your bowel habits, such as bowel movements that are either more or less frequent than normal
  • Constipation (difficulty having a bowel movement or straining to have a bowel movement)
  • Diarrhea (loose or watery stools)
  • Intermittent (alternating) constipation and diarrhea
  • Bright red or dark red blood in your stools or black, dark colored, "tarry" stools
  • Stools that are thinner than normal ("pencil stools")
  • Abdominal (midsection) discomfort, bloating, frequent gas pains, or cramps