Colorectal cancer or bowel cancer is a type of cancer that forms from uncontrolled cell growth. This growth originates in portions of the large intestine; although it also may form in the appendix. Perhaps unsurprisingly, bowel cancer forms from the cells lining the organ.
This form of cancer mainly affects the large bowel, while the small bowels remain relatively cancer-free. The condition is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths. At least six percent of people in Western countries end up developing the condition. Bowel cancer is curable in 40 to 50 percent of most cases, generally with the help of surgical intervention.
How does the condition form?
The cells in the colon may undergo a series of ‘mutations,’ controlling how the cells there divide and survive. When the cells start dividing in an uncontrollable manner, the result may produce a clump of malignant or cancerous cells. Polyps or an adenoma, clumps of abnormal cells resting on the end of a normal cell stalk, form after these mutations take place.
During this phase, the adenoma is considered pre-cancerous; just five percent of these malignant polyps become cancerous, sometimes life-threatening in nature. This happens when the polyp starts swelling over a long period of time. The abnormal cells start infiltrating the polyp, later spreading to the underlying colon tissue where the polyp resides. At this point, the cancer starts appearing in affected patients.
What are the symptoms?
Bowel cancer’s many symptoms start once the cancer infiltrates a patient’s colon tissue. Constipation is a common symptom, once the cancerous growth starts to block a portion of the lower bowels. If the bowel becomes completely obstructed, a patient generally starts experiencing severe abdominal pain and vomiting.
Cancerous growths in the proximal colon’s lumen portion are likely to cause symptoms of innate tiredness, shortness of breath and bouts of nausea. Bleeding from the rectum is also a common symptom, which may lead to the loss of blood over time.
Is treatment possible?
Treatment for bowel cancer involves surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and biological therapy. Surgery is the most common treatment for bowel cancer, though some patients require chemotherapy in advanced stages of the disease.
In surgery, the infected portions of the bowels are removed, according to the cancer’s stage of progression. In the first three stages of progression there is a requirement for surgical treatment to remove the cancerous tissue, coupled with chemotherapy for stages two and three. Stage four of the illness doesn’t have an absolute cure, though can be slowed by using the aforementioned four treatments.