What is Rectal Cancer?

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What is Rectal Cancer? Understanding the Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Rectal cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that affects the rectum, the lower part of the large intestine. It usually begins as small, noncancerous growths, called polyps, that develop on the inner lining of the rectum or colon. However, over time, these polyps can become cancerous and spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for rectal cancer.

Symptoms of Rectal Cancer

Symptoms of rectal cancer may vary depending on the stage of the cancer. In the early stages, there may be no noticeable symptoms, which is why routine screenings are important. As the cancer progresses, common symptoms may include:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • A change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Narrow stools
  • A feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor right away. Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so only a doctor can diagnose rectal cancer.

Causes of Rectal Cancer

The exact cause of rectal cancer is unknown, but there are certain risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing the disease. These risk factors include:

  • Age: The risk of rectal cancer increases with age, with most cases occurring in people over the age of 50.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, you are more likely to develop the disease.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, are at a higher risk of developing rectal cancer.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices: Eating a diet high in red meat and processed foods, smoking, and not getting enough physical activity can increase your risk of developing rectal cancer.

Diagnosis of Rectal Cancer

If your doctor suspects rectal cancer, they will likely perform a physical exam and order tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Colonoscopy: This test uses a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end to examine the inside of the rectum and colon.
  • Biopsy: During a colonoscopy, your doctor may remove a small piece of tissue from the rectum to test for cancer cells.
  • Imaging tests: Your doctor may order a CT scan, MRI, or PET scan to determine the size and location of the cancer.

Treatment of Rectal Cancer

Treatment for rectal cancer depends on the stage and location of the cancer. In some cases, surgery may be the best option to remove the cancerous tissue. Other treatment options may include:

  • Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells and prevent them from spreading.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment helps your immune system fight cancer cells.

Your doctor will work with you to develop the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

In conclusion, rectal cancer is a serious disease that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. Understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options can help you make informed decisions about your health. If you experience any symptoms of rectal cancer, be sure to see a doctor right away.

FAQs

  1. Can rectal cancer be prevented? There is no guaranteed way to prevent rectal cancer, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting routine screenings can help reduce your risk.
  1. How often should I get screened for rectal cancer? It is recommended that people at average risk of rectal cancer begin regular screenings at age 45 or 50, depending on the guidelines of your country’s health authority. If you have a family history or other risk factors, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings. Screening tests for rectal cancer can include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and stool tests.
  1. Is rectal cancer curable? Rectal cancer can be treated, and in some cases, cured, especially if it is caught in the early stages. However, the outcome depends on factors such as the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and the treatment plan.
  2. How often should I get screened for rectal cancer? It is recommended that people at average risk of rectal cancer begin regular screenings at age 45 or 50, depending on the guidelines of your country’s health authority. If you have a family history or other risk factors, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings.
  3. What is the prognosis for rectal cancer? The prognosis for rectal cancer depends on factors such as the stage of the cancer, the patient’s age and overall health, and the effectiveness of the treatment. Generally, earlier-stage cancers have a better prognosis than later-stage cancers. Your doctor can provide more information based on your individual case.
  4. What are the side effects of rectal cancer treatment? The side effects of rectal cancer treatment can vary depending on the type of treatment and the patient’s individual health. Common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy may include fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and changes in appetite. Your doctor can provide more information on possible side effects and ways to manage them.
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