What is Rectal Cancer?
Rectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the rectum, which is the last part of the large intestine. The rectum is responsible for storing feces before they are eliminated from the body through the anus. Rectal cancer is a serious condition that can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early.
Causes of Rectal Cancer
The exact cause of rectal cancer is not known, but there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. These risk factors include:
1. Age: Rectal cancer is more common in people over the age of 50.
2. Family history: People with a family history of rectal cancer are at higher risk of developing the disease.
3. Inflammatory bowel disease: People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are at higher risk of developing rectal cancer.
4. Diet: A diet high in red meat and low in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of developing rectal cancer.
5. Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of developing rectal cancer.
Symptoms of Rectal Cancer
The symptoms of rectal cancer may vary depending on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms at all. As the cancer progresses, the following symptoms may occur:
1. Blood in the stool: This is the most common symptom of rectal cancer. Blood may be bright red or dark in color.
2. Changes in bowel habits: This may include diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the size or shape of the stool.
3. Abdominal pain: This may be a dull ache or a sharp pain in the abdomen.
4. Unexplained weight loss: This may occur as a result of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
5. Fatigue: This may occur as a result of the cancer or as a side effect of treatment.
Diagnosis of Rectal Cancer
If rectal cancer is suspected, a doctor will perform a physical exam and may order one or more of the following tests:
1. Colonoscopy: This is a procedure in which a flexible tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the rectum to examine the colon and rectum.
2. Biopsy: A small sample of tissue is taken from the rectum and examined under a microscope to determine if cancer is present.
3. Imaging tests: These may include CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans to determine the extent of the cancer.
Treatment of Rectal Cancer
The treatment of rectal cancer depends on the stage of the disease and may include one or more of the following:
1. Surgery: This is the most common treatment for rectal cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tissue and any nearby lymph nodes.
2. Radiation therapy: This involves the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.
3. Chemotherapy: This involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells.
4. Targeted therapy: This involves the use of drugs that target specific proteins or other molecules that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Prevention of Rectal Cancer
There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing rectal cancer, including:
1. Eating a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in red meat.
2. Maintaining a healthy weight.
3. Exercising regularly.
4. Not smoking.
5. Getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer.
Rectal cancer is a serious condition that can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early. It is important to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of rectal cancer and to seek medical attention if any symptoms are present. With early detection and treatment, the prognosis for rectal cancer is generally good.