Learning Colorectal Cancer Symptoms And Stages

By Alley Benton
Updated January 27, 2017
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Learning Colorectal Cancer Symptoms And StagesColorectal cancer is a cancer that affects the colon and/or the rectum. It usually starts as precancerous growths and polyps mutate. However, the exact cause isn't known, although risk factors such as inflammatory bowel disease, smoking, alcohol intake, diet, and a family history do exist. Increasing your understanding of colorectal cancer symptoms and stages is key to help you fight against it.

Understanding the Symptoms in Colorectal Cancer Symptoms and Stages:

Unfortunately, colorectal cancer is often asymptomatic. This is why it is vital to have regular screenings in order to detect the cancer in its early stages, preferably through a colonoscopy. There are other tests as well, but this is the best one. Your risk factors will determine at what age you need to start to be tested.

There are some signs and symptoms to be aware of. Bleeding is one of the key red flags, although it is also quite rare and will usually only be detected when the stool is chemically tested. Other symptoms to be aware of include:

- Your bowel habits change, such as sudden diarrhea, constipation, stool narrowing, bowel incontinence, and incomplete evacuation.

- Blood in the stool, which is the most noticeable but also quite rare. Furthermore, blood in the stool does not necessarily mean that cancer is present. It could be something as minor as hemorrhoids, or as serious as Crohn's disease. It could even mean that you ate too many beets, giving a false blood impression.

- Unexplained anemia, which means you have insufficient red blood cells. You should notice sluggishness and tiredness, and feel short of breath.

- Bloating or abdominal pain.

- Sudden unexplained weight loss.

- Vomiting.

If you do experience these symptoms, visit your physician to be tested, even if it is solely to rule out the presence of cancer.

Understanding the Stages in Colorectal Cancer Symptoms and Stages:

As with all cancers, colorectal cancer is described in stages. Each stage means there is deeper invasion and that more elements of the body are affected. With colorectal cancer, the stages are:

Stage 0:

Stage 0, there are carcinoma in situ, meaning the disease is still within the lining of the rectum or colon. Treatment usually involves nothing more than removing the lesion itself, which can often be done through a colonoscopy.

Stage 1:

Stage 1, where the cancer is affecting the intestinal wall, but has not gone outside of the muscular coat yet. Usually, a colon resection will be required to treat this, which means a piece of the colon and the associated lymph nodes are removed. If it is in the rectum, different types of resections will be offered depending on the exact location of the cancer.

Stage 2:

Stage 2, whereby the cancer has gone through the muscle layer (stage 2B) and perhaps into other tissue (stage 2C), but it is not in the lymph nodes. Surgical resection is generally required, often followed by chemotherapy. If the cancer is in the rectum, doctors may require chemotherapy before the resection.

Stage 3:

Stage 3, which is an advanced stage that has reached the lymph nodes. Surgery will be offered if it affects the colon, and then chemotherapy. With rectal cancer, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often offered before surgery.

Stage 4:

Stage 4, where the cancer has metastasized to other organs, including the ovaries, lungs, or liver. Surgery will be used to prevent or relieve complications rather than to offer a cure. Sometimes, the spread can still be treated, if it is localized but more often than not, stage 4 cancer is terminal.

* Disclaimer:
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.