Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer and colon cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). A cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
What is it?
Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in the colon or rectum. Depending where they begin, these cancers may also be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer.
Most colorectal cancers start as a polyp, which is a growth on the inner lining of the colon. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time, though not all polyps become cancer.
- Fecal occult blood test (blood stool test)
- Stool DNA test
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Barium enema X-ray
- CT colonography
- Imaging scans
In general, colon cancer begins when healthy cells in the colon develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains a set of instructions that tell a cell what to do.
Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But when a cell’s DNA is damaged and becomes cancerous, cells continue to divide — even when new cells aren’t needed. As the cells accumulate, they form a tumor.
With time, the cancer cells can grow to invade and destroy normal tissue nearby. And cancerous cells can travel to other parts of the body to form deposits there (metastasis).
How to Identify?
If you have symptoms of colorectal cancer or have had an abnormal screening test, your doctor will recommend exams and tests to find the cause. If colorectal cancer is found, further testing is required to stage the cancer and plan the best course of treatment.
- A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
What to Do?
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is by regular screening. Colorectal cancer screening tests look for cancer or pre-cancer even though you have no symptoms. Polyps can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer.