Colon adenocarcinoma or Rectal Cancer is the most common type of gastrointestinal cancer, according of the National Cancer Institute. This type of cancer begins in the cells of glandular structures in the inner layer of the colon and spreads first into the wall of the colon and potentially into the lymphatic system and other organs. Rectal Cancer can be treated, with 50 percent of patients surviving for at least five years. Early-stage cancers have survival rates of 70 to 80 percent.
Rectal cancer stems from colon/rectal polyps that turn cancerous, and individuals who develop polyps are at the highest risk of colon cancer. Individuals age 50 or older who are not screened regularly for polyps are at higher risk, as well, since polyps grow in 30 percent of individuals past the age of 50. Rectal cancer also is associated with a diet high in fat and meat and low in fiber. Other risk factors include a personal history of previous cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
Rectal cancer progresses slowly and may not present symptoms for up to five years. As the cancer grows, symptoms become more likely and can include rectal bleeding, fatigue, shortness of breath, angina, and changes in bowel habits, abdominal discomfort, anemia, or bowel obstruction.
Because most rectal cancer does not present symptoms, most are found through regular physical examinations. About 5 to 10 percent of colon cancers are initially discovered during a digital rectal exam (DRE), in which a primary care physician inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the patient’s rectum. A blood test also can show the possibility of colon cancer, as can various tests that examine the colon. These tests include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or double-contrast barium enema.
Research has shown that there are things you can do to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. To reduce your risk:
- Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
- Eat less red meat – no more than 2-3 servings a week.
- Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Take a multivitamin with folate every day.
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Drink less than one alcoholic drink a day.
- Don’t smoke