Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Colorectal cancer is a disease where abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the colon and rectum. It usually begins as polyps – small benign clumps of cells inside the colon or rectum. Over time, these abnormal colon and rectum growths can become cancerous. Often, polyps are small and produce mild symptoms, and sometimes none. For this reason, your healthcare provider recommends regular Astoria colon and rectal cancer screening before the polyps become cancerous. However, if you already have this disease, fret not. Many treatments, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy, can help control the disease.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

As stated above, abnormal growths in the colon or rectum don’t always cause symptoms especially at first. For this reason, you could have colorectal cancer without knowing. That emphasizes the importance of getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer. You may experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, but when they appear, they vary depending on the size and location of the cancer in your colon or rectum. If symptoms are present, you may experience a change in your bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea. You may also notice blood in your stool or have rectal bleeding. Other signs of colorectal cancer include abdominal discomfort, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.

Causes of colorectal cancer

The specific cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, but generally, colon cancer begins when the DNA of healthy cells in the colon develops changes (mutations). The DNA in cells contains instructions that tell a cell what to do; healthy cells usually grow and multiply in an orderly way to maintain the normal functioning of your body. However, when the DNA is damaged, cell division continues even when there is no need for new cells. Over time, these cells can grow and spread, destroying healthy surrounding tissue. Cancerous cells can metastasize – travel to other body areas to form deposits.

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

Your risk of colorectal cancers increases as you age; this disease can be diagnosed at any age but is often found in individuals older than 50. However, the rates of colon cancer in younger individuals have been increasing. Other risk factors for this disease include race; African- American have a greater risk than people of different races. You are also more likely to develop colorectal cancer if you have a history of non-cancerous colon polyps or if you have had colon cancer before.

A family history of colon cancer also increases your risk of colon and rectal cancers. You are more likely to develop this disease if your blood relatives, such as your mother or sister, have had the disease. Colorectal cancer is also associated with a typical Western diet – low in sugar and high in fat and calories. Other risk factors for this disease include smoking, obesity, diabetes, heavy use of alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle, and inflammatory intestinal conditions.

If any of the above risk factors apply to you, consult your doctor at Surgical Specialists of NY to know how to reduce your risk.