The colon and rectum are continuous and cancers affecting them are referred to as colorectal cancers. Rectal cancer causes nearly 50,000 deaths a year in the U.S alone. Nearly 2/3 of colorectal cancers occur in the colon while about 1/2 occur in the rectum. In fact, colorectal cancers are the third-leading cause for cancer deaths in the U.S. after lung cancer and breast cancer. Typically colon cancer starts as small adenomatous polyps that later turn cancerous. Incidence of colorectal cancer is higher in Western nations as compared to Asian and African countries. More men tend to get affected by this form of cancer than women. Often hereditary syndromes cause multiple polyps in the digestive tract. Environmental and genetic factors play a large role in the occurrence of colorectal cancers. Those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerative colitis have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancers.
Rectal cancers do not produce symptoms in the initial stages. They can be detected only by digital or proctoscopic screening tests. If you notice blood in your stools or change in the shape of the stools or cramping pain in the lower abdomen, visit a doctor to check for signs of colorectal cancer. Patients may notice change in bowel habits and urinary symptoms. Stools may be narrower and often black and tarry. A feeling of bloating or colic pain may be experienced on account of obstruction due to tumor. Sometimes there is bowel perforation accompanied by fever and pain. Weight loss, fatigue and anemia may result.
A digital rectal examination helps in detecting abnormal lesions. Any tumor can be assessed for size and ulceration. Laboratory tests and screening procedures such as x-rays and Endoscopy aid in visualizing the lining of the colon. Since the risk of colorectal cancer increases with age, the American Cancer Society recommends yearly digital examination of the rectum for those above 50 years. Any abnormal lesions in the rectum are examined and a biopsy is performed. If a diagnosis of rectal cancer is established, staging has to be established to determine the depth of tumor penetration. Staging aids the physician in determining the treatment options. Rectal cancers are divided into 4 stages. In the first 2 stages and suspected stage 3 state, surgery is used to remove the affected part of the rectum along with its vascular and lymph. Radiation and chemotherapy are also resorted to. Radiation therapy helps in shrinking the tumor prior to surgery. Rectal cancer is often linked to diets rich in fat and calories and low in fiber. Colon cancers can be prevented with the right diet and lifestyle. Diets rich in unsaturated animal fats and highly saturated vegetable oils are known to cause colorectal cancers. High-fiber food helps in the formation of soft and bulky stools, diluting carcinogens and decreasing colonic transit time. This allows lesser chance for polyps to develop. Other dietary elements such as calcium, selenium, carotenoids and vitamins A, C and E help in destroying dangerous free radicals in the colon.
Fecal occult blood test
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) aids in detecting any occult blood in the stool. This test is part of any colorectal cancer screening process. New flushable reagent pads allow you to conduct this test either at home or a laboratory. About 2 -3 stool samples are taken on different days to check for fecal occult blood. While FOBT can detect the presence of blood in the stool, it can't pinpoint the cause. Fecal occult blood can occur due to colon cancer, gastritis, hemorrhoids, fissures, inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcer or esophagitis. Fecal occult blood test must not be conducted if the person is suffering from colitis, diarrhea, constipation or diverticulitis. Women who are menstruating or persons with active anal bleeding due to fissures or hemorrhoids must not take the FOBT. Avoid eating beets, grapefruit, poultry, red meat cooked rare, turnips or horseradish about 48 hours prior to FOBT. If any blood is detected during fecal occult blood test, further diagnostic tests are conducted to check the causes.
Diverticulitis is a condition where there is infection in the tiny areas of weakness in the large intestine. Feces can get stuck in these weak pouches (diverticulum) and lead to inflammation and infection. This condition usually affects people over the age of 60 years. There is inflammation or infection in the diverticulum. Diverticula can form in different parts of the digestive tract, be it the esophagus, small intestine or stomach. It is associated with diets low in fiber. Diverticulitis is noticed in persons from developed nations who partake refined, high fat food. Fiber in the diet prevents constipation and allows for easier passage of stools. This prevents formation of bulging diverticulum. If left untreated, Diverticulitis can lead to bleeding and blockage thereby causing serious illness.
Abdominal pain is a primary symptom of diverticulitis. There is tenderness around the left side of the abdomen and may be accompanied by fever, vomiting, chills and cramps. Often a person suffering from diverticulitis may not exhibit any symptoms. There may be difficulty in passing urine and frequent need to pass urine. Diverticulitis is usually diagnosed during routine checks for intestinal problems and colorectal cancer. CT scan and blood tests can aid in the diagnosis.
When a patient is suffering from diverticulitis, a low-fiber and clear liquid diet is usually recommended. A high fiber diet helps in keeping diverticulitis at bay. Fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains make for high fiber content. Drinking plenty of water will help prevent constipation. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat any inflammation and infection. Surgery is resorted to in cases where the diverticulum forms an obstruction. Changes in diet can go a long way in treating diverticulitis. Read more on diverticulitis diet to make modifications and add fiber to your meals.
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Diseases, Symptoms, Tests and Treatment arranged in alphabetical order:
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: November 15, 2019