Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer and rectal cancer may occur together. This is called colorectal cancer. Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), which is the final part of your digestive tract. Rectal cancer originates in the rectum, which is the last several inches of the large intestine, closest to the anus.The human colon, or large intestine, is a muscular, tube-shaped organ measuring about 4 feet long. It extends from the end of the small bowel to the rectum; some doctors may include the rectum as the end of the colon. The term colorectal describes this area that begins at the colon and ends at the anus. Typically, the first or right portion of the colon which is called the ascending colon moves up from the lower right portion of the abdomen. The next portion, or transverse colon, moves across from the right to the left side of the upper abdomen. Next, the third region or descending colon moves down the left side of your abdomen. Then an S shaped or sigmoid colon portion of the large intestine connects the rest of the colon to the rectum, which ends at the anus.

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 Symptoms

  • A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • Dark stools, or blood in the stool
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain

Risk factors

  • Older age.
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions.
  • Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk.
  • Family history of colon cancer.
  • Low-fiber, high-fat diet.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • Radiation therapy for cancer.

Prevention

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise most days of the week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
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What's new in Colorectal Cancer research and treatment?

Research is always going on in the area of colorectal cancer. Scientists are looking for causes and ways to prevent colorectal cancer as well as ways to improve treatments.

Genetics

Tests have been developed that look at the activity of many different genes in colon cancer tumors. These tests can be used to help predict which patients have a higher risk that that the cancer will spread.

Staging

By recognizing a kind of RNA that is found in colon cancer but not in normal lymph node cells, this may help identify patients who have a higher stage of colon cancer than originally suspected, and who might benefit from chemotherapy after surgery.

Treatment 

Chemotherapy

The best ways to combine chemotherapy with radiation therapy, targeted therapies, and/or immunotherapy.

  • New chemo drugs or drugs that are already used against other cancers (such as cisplatin or gemcitabine).
  • New ways to combine drugs already known to be active against colorectal cancer, such as irinotecan and oxaliplatin, to improve their effectiveness.
Targeted Therapy

Several targeted therapies are already used to treat colorectal cancer, including bevacizumab (Avastin), cetuximab (Erbitux), and panitumumab (Vectibix). Doctors continue to study the best way to give these drugs to make them more effective.

Immunotherapy

Researchers are studying several vaccines to try to treat colorectal cancer or prevent it from coming back after treatment. Unlike vaccines that prevent infectious diseases, these vaccines are meant to boost the patient's immune reaction to fight colorectal cancer more effectively.