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Colorectal Cancer

  • What is Colorectal Cancer?

    Colorectal cancer is an abnormal growth in the colon or rectum (bowel). The colon is the longest part of the large intestine and the rectum is the passageway connecting the colon to the anus. Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp (a benign or non-cancerous growth on the lining of the colon or rectum) that develops into an abnormal (cancerous) growth. Screening for polyps can lead to early detection of colorectal cancer.

  • The causes of colorectal cancer are not known, but you may be at risk if you:

    • Are older than 50 years
    • Have colorectal polyps
    • Have family members with colorectal cancer
    • Have had a previous cancer like colorectal cancer, and, in women, cancer of the ovary, uterus or breast
    • Have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (swelling of the colon)
    • Smoke tobacco or eat a diet that is high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables
  • The symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

    • Change in bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation)
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
    • Chronic tiredness
    • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
    • Narrower than usual stools
    • Frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
    • Unexplained weight loss

    Other health problems can also cause these symptoms, but you should see your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

  • You are likely to have surgery to remove the tumour. This may be:

    • Colostomy, the colon is shortened and another opening is made for waste to pass through. A bag is placed over the opening to collect the waste
    • Local (closed) surgery, done by laparoscopy (keyhole surgery)
    • Open surgery to remove the cancer and some of the nearby colon tissues and lymph nodes (glands)

    Other treatments that may be given before or after surgery include:

    • Chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells,
    • Radiation therapy (high-energy x-rays)
    • Targeted therapy to stop the growth of the cancer
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