Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of the colon or rectum. The colon, which is also called the large intestine or large bowel, is a hollow tube five to six feet long and is coiled within the abdomen. The rectum is the last six inches of the colon. This is not a part of our bodies we spend a lot of time thinking about and certainly not talking about, but the colon is a hardworking organ that helps our bodies absorb water and to excrete waste.
Cancer in the colon or rectum can take up to 10 years or more to develop to an advanced stage. That’s why it’s very important to make regular screening for colorectal cancer a part of your routine health checks.
Find out if you should be screened for colorectal cancer – assess your colorectal health by answering these simple questions.
When normal cells that form the lining of the colon begin to grow abnormally a small precancerous growth can form. The trouble often begins with a 'polyp', which is a non-cancerous growth projecting from the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Polyps are not cancerous at the beginning, but some polyps do turn into cancers. If polyps are removed in their early stages colorectal cancer can be prevented. But if left unchecked, some polyps can slowly become cancers.
Read more about prevention and screening for colorectal cancer.
During the early stages polyps may grow to a large size without causing any symptoms. As colorectal cancer progresses, the following symptoms may occur:
It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other health problems. For instance, blood in the stool can be caused by inflammation of the bowels or hemorrhoids. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t hesitate to talk to your health care provider during your next health visit about these symptoms.