and Rectal Cancer
colon and rectal cancer?
Cancer of the colon is one of the most common cancers in Ireland. It occurs
in the bowel, which is also known as the intestine and includes the colon (large
intestine) and the rectum, which is the lower six inches of the tract. In colorectal
cancer, 70% of malignancies occur in the colon (the large intestine) and 30%
appear in the rectum.
In most cases, the precise cause is unknown but there are a number of contributory
factors which include:
- A family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease.
Approximately 5% of cancers of the colon occur in families with a predisposition
to the disease.
- It usually occurs in people over 50.
- Women are at a slightly higher risk than men.
- Those in industrialised parts of the worlds are more susceptible.
- It is thought that a high-meat, high-fat, low-fibre diet encourages the
production of carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
the symptoms of colon and rectal cancer?
There may not be any symptoms initially. When symptom do occur, they vary widely
depending on the location of the cancer within the large intestine. The first
symptom may be an inexplicable change in the bowel habit, persisting for more
than 10 days. Other symptoms may include: rectal bleeding, blood in the stool
and abdominal pain. Some patients might only feel a general weakness and fatigue
due to iron deficiency anaemia. Unexplained weight loss may also be noted.
and rectal cancers be prevented?
Prevention and early detection are the key to controlling and curing these
cancers. Colorectal cancer begins as polyps, which are small, benign (non-cancerous)
growths of cells that form on the inner lining of the colon. These polyps may
grow larger over time and become cancerous, which is why if any polyps are found,
it is usually advisable to have them removed before they can become cancerous.
Lifestyle changes can also reduce a person's chances of developing colon cancer.
To reduce the risk of colon cancer, it is best to follow a diet that is low
in fat and high in fruits, vegetables and fibre. It is also advisable to exercise
regularly, to drink alcohol in moderation and for smokers to give up smoking.
Oestrogen replacement therapy may reduce the risk of colon cancer in postmenopausal
women. Use of contraceptives is also thought to protect against the development
of colon and rectal cancer.
are colon and rectal cancers?
The outcome for colorectal cancers depends on the degree of spread of the tumour
at diagnosis. Therefore, it is vital to see your doctor without delay if you
are over 50 and have any symptoms which might suggest bowel problems.
The five year survival rate for those undergoing surgery for colon cancer is
as high as 90% for cancers which have not spread to the lymph nodes. More than
50% of patients who have had a colectomy (surgery to remove the colon) survive
in good health for more than five years.
Age is not a factor in treatment success. Treatment can prolong life, even
when the cancer has spread.
these cancers treated?
Surgery is the most common treatment. For cancers that have not spread this
often provides a complete cure. In most cases a partial colectomy (removal of
a part of the colon) is performed. The cancerous tissue and a small amount of
surrounding normal tissue are removed and the cut ends are rejoined to re-establish
the channel. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often combined with surgical
removal of the tumor to increase the likelihood of a cure.
any long-term effects?
Naturally many patients who undergo treatment for colorectal cancer are concerned
about preserving normal bowel, urinary and sexual function after treatment.
Only a small minority of patients will need a permanent colostomy (an artificial
opening of the abdomen used for the collection of wastes) following treatment.
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