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Colorectal cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. With the right diagnosis and treatment, colorectal cancer can be managed and even cured. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer so you can get help right away.

Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is a cancer that starts in the large intestine. It’s the third most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 135,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2021.

Though anyone can develop colorectal cancer, it’s most common in people over the age of 50. Other risk factors include a family history of colorectal cancer, a personal history of colorectal polyps, being overweight or obese, and having an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The earliest signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer are often subtle, and those affected may not notice them. Common signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Change in the bowel habits (including constipation, diarrhea, or change in stool consistency)
  • Abdominal discomfort that is persistent (gas, pain, or cramps)
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you experience any of these colon cancer symptoms and suspect colorectal cancer, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Your doctor may perform tests to diagnose colorectal cancer, such as a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Treatment options vary depending on the stage of cancer and the patient’s overall health and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy.

If you or someone you know is at risk for colorectal cancer, it’s important to get regular screenings and to talk to your doctor about your risk factors. Know the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, and if you notice any, seek medical attention right away. With early diagnosis and treatment, colorectal cancer can be managed and even cured.

Different Types of Colorectal Cancer

The most common type of colorectal cancer is called adenocarcinoma. This type of cancer begins in the glands that line the inner walls of the colon and rectum. The cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, including the liver and the lungs.

Colorectal cancer commonly arises from growths called polyps. Polyps can range from tubular, villous, traditional serrated adenomas (TSAs) to sessile serrated polyps (SSPs). All these types of polyps have a risk of becoming cancerous.

Inflammatory polyps and hyperplastic polyps are two other types of polyps. These polyps are usually not cancerous, but if a person has large (>1 cm) hyperplastic polyps, he/she may be recommended to have more frequent colorectal cancer screening.

It is important to stay informed about colorectal cancer and know the different types of polyps and how to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake, increasing physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can all help lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer. 

If a person is at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, they may also be recommended to have a screening test to detect precancerous polyps. It is important to understand the different types of colorectal cancer and the risk factors associated with the disease in order to reduce the risk of developing it. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or questions about colorectal cancer and to find out if you should be tested.

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