For most people, a tummy ache is just that. A simple tummy ache. It's something we tend to take very casually. But, on occasion, a stomach ache can be indicative of a far more serious problem - digestive track complications, colitis and even cancer. Tackling these conditions at an early stage ensures you a better chance of survival. In cases involving colonic cancer and colitis, timely intervention can save the lives of 70-80% of patients. So, make it a point to visit your doctor regularly for check-ups.
Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start.
Persistent constipation or diarrhoea
An urgency to move the bowels
Rectal cramping, or rectal bleeding
Dark patches of blood in or on stool; or long, thin, "pencil stools"
Abdominal discomfort or bloating
Unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, and/or weight loss
Pelvic pain, which occurs at later stages of the disease
Older age (after 50)
Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis
A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
Lack of regular physical activity
Low fruit and vegetable intake
A low-fibre and high-fat diet
Overweight and obesity
Stage I: Cancer has grown through the mucosa and has invaded the muscular layer of the colon or rectum.
Stage II: Cancer has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum
Stage III: Cancer has grown through the inner lining or into the muscle layers of the intestine and spread to one to three lymph nodes
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to different organ like lungs, bones, liver, lymph nodes, brain or spinal cord.
Primary diagnosis : Physical examination, blood tests
Advanced diagnosis : Colonoscopy (using a scope to examine the inside of your colon)
Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
Cancer starts when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. To learn more about how cancers start and spread, see What Is Cancer?
Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps.
Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time (usually many years), but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of a polyp changing into cancer depends on the type of polyp it is. The 2 main types of polyps are:
Other factors that can make a polyp more likely to contain cancer or increase someone’s risk of developing colorectal cancer include:
For more details on the types of polyps and conditions that can lead to colorectal cancer, see Understanding Your Pathology Report: Colon Polyps.
If cancer forms in a polyp, it can grow into the wall of the colon or rectum over time. The wall of the colon and rectum is made up of many layers. Colorectal cancer starts in the innermost layer (the mucosa) and can grow outward through some or all of the other layers.
When cancer cells are in the wall, they can then grow into blood vessels or lymph vessels (tiny channels that carry away waste and fluid). From there, they can travel to nearby lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body.
The stage (extent of spread) of a colorectal cancer depends on how deeply it grows into the wall and if it has spread outside the colon or rectum. For more on staging, see Colorectal Cancer Stages.
To understand colorectal cancer, it helps to understand the parts that make up the colon and rectum. The colon and rectum make up the large intestine (or large bowel), which is part of the digestive system, also called the gastrointestinal (GI) system (see illustration below).
Most of the large intestine is made up of the colon, a muscular tube about 5 feet long. The parts of the colon are named by which way the food is traveling through them.
The ascending and transverse sections together are called the proximal colon. The descending and sigmoid colon are called the distal colon.
The colon absorbs water and salt from the remaining food matter after it goes through the small intestine (small bowel). The waste matter that's left after going through the colon goes into the rectum, the final 6 inches of the digestive system. It's stored there until it passes out of the body through the anus. Ring-shaped sphincter (SFINK-ter) muscles around the anus keeps stool from coming out until they relax during a bowel movement.
Adenocarcinomas make up about 96% of colorectal cancers. These cancers start in cells that make mucus to lubricate the inside of the colon and rectum. When doctors talk about colorectal cancer, they're almost always talking about this type. Some sub-types of adenocarcinoma, such as signet ring and mucinous, may have a worse prognosis (outlook).
Other, much less common types of tumors can start in the colon and rectum, too. These include: