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Colorectal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

colorectal cancer causes symptoms and treatment

Colorectal cancer is a significant health concern affecting both men and women worldwide. This type of cancer develops in the colon or rectum and can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early. 

In this blog, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention strategies for colorectal cancer, providing valuable insights into this prevalent disease.

What is  Colorectal cancer?

Colon (colorectal) cancer originates in the colon, the large intestine, responsible for transporting digested food to the rectum. 

It arises from specific polyps in the colon lining. Screening tests identify precancerous polyps, preventing their progression to tumours. Undetected or untreated, colon cancer can metastasize. Screening, early treatment, and innovative therapies contribute to reduced mortality rates from this disease.

What are the Types of Colorectal Cancer?

Colon cancer encompasses various types originating from different cells and locations within the digestive tract, like:

  • Adenocarcinomas: This common type of colon cancer begins in mucus-producing cells of the colon or rectum.
  • Other types: Colon cancers can also arise from different tumours:
    • Lymphomas: These can first develop in lymph nodes or the colon.
    • Carcinoids: Originate in hormone-producing cells of the intestines.
    • Sarcomas: Form in soft tissues like colon muscles.
    • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs): These can start as benign but may become cancerous, typically developing in the digestive tract, though rarely in the colon.

Understanding these diverse origins is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment strategies.

What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Colon cancer can develop without noticeable symptoms, making regular screenings essential. If symptoms arise, it’s important to discern whether they indicate colon cancer or another condition due to overlapping symptoms. Typical indicators to watch out for are:

  • Blood in Stool: Consult a healthcare provider if you notice blood in your stool or after wiping, though this doesn’t necessarily indicate colon cancer.
  • Changes in Bowel Habits: Persistent constipation, diarrhoea, or feeling the need to defecate after using the restroom should prompt a discussion with a healthcare provider.
  • Abdominal Pain: Unexplained, persistent belly pain warrants medical attention to rule out serious causes.
  • Bloating: If bloating persists for over a week accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting or blood in stool, seek medical advice.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Significant weight loss without intent should be evaluated.
  • Vomiting: Recurrent, unexplained vomiting requires medical assessment.

Regular medical check-ups are crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

What are the Causes of Colorectal Cancer?

Key causes and risk factors contributing to colorectal cancer include:

  • Age: The majority of cases emerge in individuals over 50 years old, highlighting age as a significant risk factor.
  • Family History and Genetics: Those with familial colorectal cancer history or genetic syndromes (e.g., familial adenomatous polyposis, Lynch syndrome) face heightened risk.
  • Personal Medical History: Past colorectal polyps or chronic inflammatory bowel conditions (e.g., ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease) elevate risk.
  • Dietary Habits: Diets high in red/processed meats and low in fruits, vegetables, and fibre correlate with increased risk.
  • Physical Inactivity: Sedentary lifestyles are linked to higher colorectal cancer incidence.
  • Obesity and Smoking: Being overweight, especially with excess abdominal fat, and long-term heavy smoking are associated with heightened risk.
  • Alcohol, Diabetes, and Ethnicity: Heavy alcohol consumption, type 2 diabetes, and particular ethnicities are also risk factors.
  • Radiation Exposure: Past radiation treatments in the abdomen or pelvis slightly increase risk.

What are the Complications of Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer can lead to various complications if not diagnosed and treated promptly:

  • Spread to Nearby Organs: The cancer may metastasize to the liver, lungs, or abdomen.
  • Intestinal Obstruction: Tumour growth can block the intestine, causing abdominal pain or vomiting.
  • Bowel Perforation: A tumour can create a hole in the colon or rectum, leading to infection.
  • Anaemia: Chronic bleeding can cause iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Malnutrition and weight loss due to impaired nutrient absorption.
  • Liver Dysfunction: Spread to the liver can impair its function.
  • Blood Clots: Increased risk of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.

Managing these complications requires close collaboration with healthcare providers for optimal treatment and outcomes. Early detection is key to improving prognosis and reducing risks.

How is Colorectal Cancer Diagnosed?

An early diagnosis of colon cancer is crucial for successful treatment. 

Colon cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, making routine screenings vital for detection. Screening is normally advised from age 40 due to rising diagnoses in younger adults. 

The screening methods include:

  • Faecal Testing (Annually)
  • Guaiac-Based Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): Detects blood in stool using a coated card.
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): Identifies haemoglobin, more precise and unaffected by diet.
  • At-Home Test Kits: Offer convenience with lab analysis and online results.

Other diagnostic options are:

  • Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years recommended)
  • Colonoscopy (every 10 years)
  • X-ray (barium enema) and CT Scans for detailed imaging.

What is the Treatment for Colorectal Cancer?

Colon cancer treatment primarily involves surgical procedures tailored to the specific needs of the patient. The following are a few typical procedures and therapies:

  • Polypectomy: Removes cancerous polyps.
  • Partial Colectomy (Colon resection surgery): Removes the section of the colon containing the tumour, with anastomosis to reconnect healthy sections.
  • Surgical Resection with Colostomy: Involves removing the tumour-containing colon section and creating a colostomy for waste collection.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation: Uses heat to eradicate cancerous cells

Additionally, healthcare providers may combine surgery with adjuvant therapies like:

  • Chemotherapy: Shrinks tumours and alleviates symptoms.
  • Targeted Therapy (Monoclonal antibody): Attacks specific cancer cell components to halt growth and multiplication.

How can you Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Reducing your risk of colon cancer involves:

  • Avoid Tobacco: Seek help from healthcare providers for smoking cessation programs.
  • Moderate Alcohol: Control alcohol intake to lower risk.
  • Maintain Healthy Weight: Obesity increases risk; prioritise healthy eating and exercise.
  • Healthy Diet: Focus on fruits and vegetables; reduce red meat and processed foods.
  • Consider Coffee: Drinking coffee might lower the risk.
  • Family Medical History: Track family health; inform healthcare providers of any colon cancer cases.


Awareness and early detection are vital in combating colorectal cancer. By staying informed, adopting healthy lifestyles, and undergoing recommended screenings, we can reduce its impact and save lives. Prioritising prevention and proactive health measures is important. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced oncologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult an oncologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with oncologist .

FAQs About Colorectal Cancer

When should I Begin having a Colorectal Cancer Screening?

Start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45, or earlier if there’s a family history or other risk factors. Discuss with your healthcare provider to determine the best screening method for you.

Is Colorectal Cancer Curable?

Yes, colorectal cancer is curable, especially if detected early. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Regular screenings can improve early detection and outcomes.

What Dietary Changes can Help Lower the Risk of Colorectal Cancer?

To lower colorectal cancer risk, increase fibre intake (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), limit red and processed meats, consume calcium-rich foods, maintain a healthy weight, and limit alcohol and tobacco use.

Can Colorectal Cancer Spread to other Parts of the Body?

Colorectal cancer can spread (metastasize) to other organs like the liver, lungs, or lymph nodes. Early detection and treatment can help prevent or manage the spread.

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