It is not always easy to recognize the symptoms of colorectal cancer, which misses the chances of an early diagnosis. D’une part, de nombreuses personnes atteintes d’un cancer du côlon ou du rectum (connu sous le nom de cancer colorectal) ne ressentent aucun symptôme jusqu’à ce que la maladie ait atteint un stade plus avancé, o iff elle estic for analysis. This is why testing seemingly unaffected people is of paramount importance.
Early detection: a major asset
The decline in colorectal cancer deaths in recent decades is partly due to increased screening efforts identifying asymptomatic cancers. Screening tests can also identify abnormal growths called colorectal polyps, some of which may be cancerous. When doctors remove potentially dangerous polyps, they stop the cancer before it starts. Another complication of diagnosing colon cancer and rectal cancer is that even when symptoms do develop, people with cancer and doctors can blame other common conditions, such as hemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome.
Also, many young people believe that colorectal cancer only affects older adults, and therefore they are likely to be unaware of the symptoms. However, while the vast majority of colorectal cancers still appear in the elderly, rates among men and women under 50 are rising sharply.
7 Symptoms and Signs of Colon and Rectal Cancer
Regardless of your age, the following symptoms should prompt you to see a doctor:
- A change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts more than a few days.
- Feeling the need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by defecation.
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- There is blood in the stool, which makes it look dark.
- Abdominal cramps or pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Although people with colorectal cancer may not have rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, for many these are the most identifiable signs of the disease.
These symptoms occur when cancer spreads through the digestive system. This can happen very slowly, over years, so the presence of blood in the stool may not be noticeable. Over time, this constant blood loss can lead to a low red blood cell count, a condition called anemia. Blood tests that diagnose anemia can be the first step in diagnosing colon or rectal cancer.
Discuss your symptoms with your doctor
Once you describe your symptoms to your doctor, they will likely give you a physical to determine the cause. Your doctor will likely ask about your medical history and ask if any family members have had colorectal cancer, especially your parents, siblings, or children. Most people with colorectal cancer have no family history of the disease, but 1 in 5 does.
The main risk factors for colorectal cancer
In rare cases, genetic mutations that are passed down through families, such as Lynch syndrome, can make a person more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Your doctor will want to know if you have other health conditions, especially those involving the colon and rectum, that may increase your risk of colorectal cancer. This may be a history of colorectal cancer, precancerous polyps, or an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There is also an association between type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. Other risk factors include obesity or being overweight, low level of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
What exams to get to the bottom of it?
A physical exam and blood tests are part of the health exam. Once the doctor is aware of your medical history, the next step may be a physical examination of your body which includes gentle pressure on your abdomen to detect any lumps or enlarged organs. The doctor may also examine the rectum by placing a gloved, lubricated finger inside to check for abnormalities. Your doctor may order blood tests to look for changes that indicate colorectal cancer.
This is not just a test to see if you are anemic, but also tests that measure liver enzymes and substances called tumor markers. If you do not see rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, your doctor may advise you to have a test to determine hidden blood. These tests, which include a stool blood test and a fecal immunochemical test, involve collecting one or more stool samples at home, packing them into a special container, and returning them to the doctor’s office or medical laboratory.
Your doctor may suggest a colonoscopy
You can also leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for a diagnostic colonoscopy. During this procedure, a gastroenterologist examines the inside of the colon and rectum using a device inserted through the anus: a long, thin, flexible light tube with a small video camera attached to it. If the examination reveals any suspicious growths, the gastroenterologist may remove tissue for a biopsy to determine if cancerous cells are present. The night before the colonoscopy, people having the exam should clean their colon and rectum. This procedure involves drinking a strong laxative solution. People undergoing a colonoscopy are usually sedated during the procedure.
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