What is colorectal cancer? Colorectal cancer is a cancer which can develop anywhere in the large intestine with the majority of colorectal cancers beginning as polyps inside the colon or rectum.
What causes colorectal cancer? The exact cause of most colorectal cancers is unknown. Colon cancer develops due to changes in the colon lining. These changes may be inherited or develop as the result of mutations occurring during a person’s life, the causes of which are not fully understood. Common risk factors are family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, high fat diet, obesity or smoking. However, some patients may have none of these risk factors, thus screening all individuals over age 50 years (and African-Americans over age 45 years) is important.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:
- A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stoo
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they’ll likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine.