Causes and Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer

Big C

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, affects the colon as well as the rectum. It is one of the most common types of cancer that affects men and women across the country equally. This type of cancer develops in the inner lining of the colorectal tube. The colorectal tube can be a breeding ground for polyps and small tumors that can turn malignant.

Although most polyps and tumors are benign, studies have shown that usually, polyps developing inside the glandular tissue of the intestinal lining can turn precancerous. These precancerous polyps can lead to metastatic colorectal cancer if left untreated.

The development of cancer is related to size as polyps less than a centimeter in size have roughly 1% chance of turning into adenomatous (malignant) polyps. The ones that are bigger than two centimeters are more prone to turn malignant. The growth of colorectal cancer can be controlled and treated if the tumor is localized. At the same time, metastatic colorectal cancer can spread to other parts of the body including lymph nodes, organs, tissues, and the bloodstream as it spreads through the walls of the bowel.

Mentioned below are some risk factors that might cause colorectal cancer:

  • Abdominal diseases
    An underlying condition can increase one’s risk of developing metastatic colon cancer. Abdominal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can result in the development of tumors and polyps in the intestine, causing colorectal cancer.
  • Genes
    Unfortunately, cancer can be hereditary. Studies show that genetic sequences partly determine one’s susceptibility to colorectal cancer. It is observed people with medical conditions such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), Gardner’s syndrome, MYH-associated polyps, and Cowden’s disease, have a higher chance of suffering from colorectal cancer.
  • Diet
    Although not a major cause, one’s diet does contribute to the early stages of colorectal cancer. Fats and proteins present in overcooked meats can act as promoters, leading to symptoms of colorectal cancer.
  • Chemical exposure
    Certain chemicals such as chlorine and asbestos increase the risk of colorectal cancer. These chemicals cause the formation of polyps in the colon, which might turn malignant if not treated in a timely manner.
  • Family history
    If one’s siblings or parents have a history of colorectal cancer, then it increases one’s risk of developing the disease.

Apart from these factors, one’s regular habits such as smoking and drinking can also contribute to colorectal cancer.

Using diagnostic procedures to detect polyps in intestines can help to treat them before they become cancerous. Following are the most commonly used procedures to diagnose colorectal cancer.

  • Stool DNA test
    Precancerous or adenomatous polyps tend to shed cancerous DNA into the stool. This test uses DNA markers to detect the same and is very accurate in detecting malignant mutations instead of just detecting polyps.
  • Fecal occult blood test
    Although not 100% accurate, a fecal occult blood test can help in deciding additional diagnostic procedures. This test involves collecting the patient’s stool to check for traces of blood.
  • Barium enema X-ray
    A contrast dye, barium, is placed into the patient’s bowel through an enema. The contrast dye coats the inner lining of the bowel and colorectal tube, which creates a clear image of the colon and rectum. This image can be used to detect the growth of polyps which can turn into metastatic colorectal cancer if not treated on time.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
    A sigmoidoscope is a slender, flexible, and lighted tube for examining a patient’s rectum and sigmoid (the last part of the colon, just before the rectum). The diagnostic procedure can be used specifically for detecting metastatic colorectal cancer.
  • CT colonography
    Computer Tomography or CT scan is used specifically for patients with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. CT colonoscopy is better-tolerated as it is less invasive and provides an accurate diagnosis.
  • Colonoscopy
    The procedure uses an apparatus that is longer, more slender, and flexible than a sigmoidoscope. A colonoscope contains a camera attached to its tip which doctors can use to look for abnormal growths inside the colon and rectum. If there is indeed an abnormal growth in the form of polyps or a tumor, the doctors will remove the same and send the samples to a lab to examine if it is benign or malignant.

Based on the results derived from the above-mentioned diagnostic procedures, the doctors will provide treatments that will help in reducing the symptoms caused due to colorectal cancer. It is important to note that there are different procedures that can be used to treat metastatic colorectal cancer. There are several new procedures and alternatives that can help reduce the symptoms of this cancer. Medications such as Erbitux Cyramza mCRC might be administered for the advanced stages of colorectal cancer. If a patient is diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it is necessary to consult an oncologist and discuss various treatment options based on the severity of symptoms.