Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in either the colon (large intestine or bowel) or the rectum (the last portion of the colon). Colorectal cancers can be named for the location of the initial cancer. You may hear colorectal cancer referred to as colon cancer, CRC, rectal cancer, or bowel cancer.
Most colorectal cancer begins as polyps, which are small clumps of cells in the lining of the colon or rectum. Most polyps are benign (not cancerous) and will never develop into cancer; however, some polyps can become cancerous. Colon cancer usually develops slowly from polyps, which makes it easier to diagnose and treat with recommended screening colonoscopies.
Stages of Colorectal Cancer
When cancer is found, doctors will determine which type of cancer is present and will do further tests to stage the cancer. Staging means they will investigate if the cancer has spread and if so, how far. It is done to help determine the most effective treatments. Tests for staging colorectal cancer may include CT scans or MRI scans of the abdomen, pelvic region, and chest. Chest x-rays, molecular testing, and blood tests may also be done. It is possible that staging may not be possible until surgery is performed.
The stages of colon cancer are:
- Stage I: Cancer is only in the inner lining of the colon and/or rectum but has not spread beyond it.
- Stage II: Cancer has passed into the wall of the colon/rectum, but it hasn’t spread to lymph nodes.
- Stage III: Cancer is in the lymph nodes, but it hasn’t yet spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the lung or liver.
Symptoms and Signs of Colorectal Cancer
Early colorectal cancer often doesn’t have any noticeable signs or symptoms, but as the disease progresses, most people will experience some symptoms. This can include changes in your stool size and color, blood in your stool, the presence of polyps, and more.
Learn more about signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Preventing Colorectal Cancer
Screening for colorectal cancer is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer from developing or spreading beyond the colon. Because colorectal cancer tends to grow slowly, screening in the form of a colonoscopy is the best way to keep your colon healthy and cancer free.
A colonoscopy is a test that looks for polyps and other abnormal growth in the lining of your colon and rectum. Most doctors recommend screening colonoscopies at age 50 for most healthy adults without a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, at age 45 for African American adults without a personal or family history, and earlier for those who have a family history.
If you’re ready to schedule your colonoscopy, call (248) 577-9277 today and ask for a referral.
Learn more about colorectal cancer screening guidelines and when you should schedule your colonoscopy.
Risks of Colorectal Cancer
For most people who develop colorectal cancer, there was no clear reason or cause. There are inherited gene mutations that can put you at higher risk for colorectal cancer, and there are many risk factors that are thought to increase your chances of developing cancer.
Learn more about the risks and causes of colorectal cancer.
Whether you have risk factors or not, you should consider scheduling a screening colonoscopy. Call (800) 633-7377 today to ask for a referral for your colorectal cancer screen, and take control of your bowel health.