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Colorectal Cancer - Symptoms and Treatments

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


Latest Statistic for Colorectal Cancer

There are some new treatments for colorectal cancer (CRC) and the number of cases has dropped since the mid-1960s. People have changed some of their lifestyle risk factors, and they are getting screened regularly, which accounts for a decreased death toll. The estimated cases this year in the U.S. is expected to be 149,500.

It is the third leading cause of death in India for men (663,000 cases) and women (571,000 cases) in 2020.

The UK states there are 268,000 living with bowel cancer, and they expect 42,000 to be diagnosed this year.

In 2020, Australia estimated there were 15,494 new cases of colorectal cancer, which include 8,340 males and 7,154 females.

The definition for the two cancers are:

  • Colon cancer is found in the longest part of the large intestine
  • Rectal cancer which forms in the tissues of the rectum including the last several inches of the large intestine.

Types of Colon Cancers

Most colon cancers are a type of adenocarcinoma, which is a cancer of the cells lining the colon surface. Some more rare types of cancers include:

  • Hormone-producing cells inside the intestines that are carcinoid tumors
  • Soft tissue sarcoma are gastrointestinal stromal tumors found in the GI tract
  • Sarcomas that start in the blood vessels or connective tissue in the colon
  • Lymphomas that are a cancer of the immune system, which typically begins in the lymph nodes of the colon
Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer

Some Cancer Facts

  • The exact cause of the cancer is unknown, but studies have shown some factors that seem to be linked to the increased risk of getting the disease.
  • Colorectal cancer is more likely to occur when people are older, although it can happen at any age, but for most people it is over 50.
  • Polyps are abnormal growths in the intestines that protrude from the lining and are usually benign. However, experts think that most cancers develop from polyps (known as adenomas), and detecting polyps and removing them may prolong your life. That is why once you reach 45 your physician will push you to have a colonoscopy. During this procedure a physician will do a polypectomy if necessary.
  • A person who has already had this type of cancer is at an increased risk of developing it a second time. Also, women who have had ovarian, uterine or breast cancer have a higher probability of developing this disease.
  • Family history is also a consideration, as individuals with close relatives that have had colorectal cancer are somewhat more likely to develop this type of cancer. This is true particularly if the family member developed the cancer at a young age.
  • There are some diseases that can increase your risk of colorectal cancer, which are ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease as these conditions cause chronic inflammation in the lining of the colon.
  • There is evidence that diet is a factor. Diets that are associated with cancer include a high consumption of red and processed meats, fats, sugar and alcohol.

Risks and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer - Mayo Clinic

Typical screenings for Colorectal Cancer

Fecal occult blood test: This test checks for hidden blood in fecal material. Studies have shown that this test alone when repeated every one to two years can reduce deaths by 15-33%.

Sigmoidoscopy: The rectum and lower colon are examined in this test. If there is abnormal growth it can be biopsied or removed.

Colonoscopy: The entire colon is examined with a lighted instrument called a colonoscope, and thankfully, anesthesia is part of the procedure. Again, abnormal growths can be removed or biopsied. You have to do a thorough cleansing ahead of time, which is not particularly pleasant.

Virtual colonoscopy: This procedure is done with a CAT scan, and the pictures are assembled to be examined as detailed images. This is certainly less invasive, and anesthesia is not necessary. It has the advantage of finding other cancers in the area that is x-rayed.

Digital rectal exam: This is a procedure done with the physician inserting his gloved hand with a lubricant into the rectum to feel for abnormal areas.

A rather large group of various medical associations have come up with a list of criteria to determine which factors should determine the appropriate test, including:

  • A person’s age
  • Medical and family history
  • Your general health.
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Also, they consider the accuracy of the test, potential harm of the test, whether sedation is necessary, any necessary follow-up care, plus the convenience and cost of the test.

Colon Cancer Treatment

Treatment Protocols

Surgery is often the first treatment for this type of cancer, however, Neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor, which is sometimes given with radiation.

Adjuvant chemotherapy is given following surgery, which will shrink or kill the cancer cells.

Palliative chemotherapy is used when the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

Radiation uses high-energy particles or rays to shrink or destroy cancer cells, and this is typically used for advanced colon cancer.

Targeted therapies attack genetic weaknesses in the cancer cells, and this treatment spares healthy cells.

Immunotherapy is a treatment that using medication that actually uses your immune system to fight the cancer. The drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU0) is typically the first choice to treat colon cancer over the past several years.

There are numerous drugs now approved for colorectal cancer, but 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) has been the first choice to treat this cancer for many years. Most of the medications are given intravenously but some are in the pill form.

Capecitabine (Xeloda) is a pill that functions like 5-FU once it reaches a tumor. This medication is also used as an adjuvant therapy or neoadjuvant therapy combined with rdition for rectal cancer.

Some other medications that are often combined with 5-FU include:

  • Irinotecan (Camptosar)
  • Trifluridine
  • Tipiracil (Lonsurf) in pill form
  • FOLFOX: leucovorin, 5-FU, and oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
  • FOLFIRI: leucovorin, 5-FU, and irinotecan (Camptosar)
  • CAPEOX or CAPOX: capecitabine (Xeloda) and oxaliplatin
  • FOLFOXIRI: leucovorin, 5-FU, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan

A combination of these medications may be required. Maintenance chemotherapy is sometimes necessary. You get smaller doses over longer periods of time.

While things have improved with the various new drug treatments we are certainly a long way from a cure. Research is being done continually on cancer treatment, and treatments have greatly improved.


What Can You Do To Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

First, if you have a positive family history, you will want to make sure you have earlier evaluations. The fecal blood test is simple, and it is often done on women when they have their GYN appointment. It can also be done in your home, where you take the samples to the lab when completed. If you have a positive test, then further testing will be done immediately.

The other thing you can do is live a healthy life, and particularly eat a healthy diet, limiting red meat and processed meats. Eat more vegetables, fruits and grains.

Always report any blood in your stool whether there is bright red blood or black stool.

Changing your lifestyle is easier said than done, but take some quiet time of self reflection and meditation. Exercise so those healthy endorphins will be floating around your body. Take time to have fun. You only have one shot at this life, so lighten up!

Cooking to Prevent Cancer


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 27, 2021:

Hi Doris,

It is so good to hear from you as you are one of the old-timers like me who has been here for a long time. I wish you would write articles again.

I appreciate you telling me of your personal experience. I knew you had a lot of health problems. It sounds like you are reasonably safe now. I am sorry to hear about your mother. I lost my mother two years ago and miss her all the time too. Your family history is tough, but it is good that you did the DNA study. I did that also.

Prevention is so very important as they can't cure it if they don't know you have it. I think all of us know of at least one person, if not more, that had colon cancer.

I appreciate all of your comments, Doris. Stay safe and healthy!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 26, 2021:

Pamela, this is a good article. I lost my mother in 2008 to this cancer, and her death may have been prevented if she'd only listened to me. I begged her for several years to have a colonoscopy, but it took the cancer making her miserable to cause her to get one. She suffered for 10 years with three episodes of this cancer before finally succumbing to it. She was 88. Her mother was in her early 40s when she died from colon cancer, and mom's oldest brother was in his mid 50s when it took him. I had 18 inches of my colon removed in 2015 from severe diverticulitis, but no sign of cancer. I did have my thyroid removed in 2010 due to precancerous nodules. I read in some medical literature that thyroid cancer was linked to colon cancer, so maybe I was lucky. I took the health part of the DNA tests from 23andMe and I do not carry the gene for this colon cancer. Up until having the diverticulitis removed, I had a colonoscopy every three years. The doctor said my chances had been reduced, so now I'm on a schedule of every five years.

Thank you for urging people to have regular colonoscopies. I know a man who had colon cancer in his 30s. He is now about 55, and is a survivor. It isn't something to ignore like my mother did. I miss my mother.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 26, 2021:

Hi Mel,

It is time for you to be a big boy. Haha! It is the prep that is hard, but you are sleep for the actual exam. No one likes the whole idea.

Thanks for commenting! Hope you are having a good day!

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 26, 2021:

Zoinks! You are always bringing to light these health conditions that hit close to home. My Grandfather died of this cancer. True, he was 88 years old, but it still would have been nice to have him around for a few more years.

The bad part is, I didn't learn my lesson from his experience. I am 57, and still haven't had an examination. Sounds bad to say it, but being probed up there is sort of traumatizing for a man. Still, I have to be a big boy and get it done, and your article reminded me of this.

Great work.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 26, 2021:

Hi Audrey,

I am glad you had the colonoscopy. It is only the prep that people don't like, but it is such a good preventative tool.

I am glad you like the article. I appreciate your comments. I hope you are having a good week!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 25, 2021:

Great information, Pamela. How fortunate we are to learn so much about our bodies from your helpful articles. I'm not at all hesitant about this procedure. I slept through the entire colonoscopy. Stay well!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 25, 2021:


I agree that everyone should know about prevention.

Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you are doing well.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 25, 2021:

You’ve shared some very important information that everyone should know. Thank you, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 25, 2021:

Hi Bill,

You are exactly right, and I am glad you get checked routinely. No one likes the prep, but you sleep through the procedure, so it really isn't that bad.

I appreciate your comments. I really love your travel articles.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on August 25, 2021:

Great info Pam. I go every 5 years for my colonoscopy and to be honest I don’t mind it at all. I’ve had 3 of them now and only one small polyp so far. This procedure can be a life saver, thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 24, 2021:

Hi Vidya,

I am glad you found this article to be informative. I agree that the colonoscopy is awful. Testing is important though. I hope also hope they find a cure.

Prevention is important. Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you have a great week also!

VIDYA D SAGAR on August 24, 2021:

A very informative article Pamela. Especially the tips to prevent this terrible malady. It is very scary. I had colonoscopy done a couple of times and it is terrible. Hope they find a cure for it soon. Have a great week, thanks for sharing this useful article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

They have lowered the age to 45 in the past 10 years. Many people have not seen a doctor recently due to COVID. I am sorry you lost a friend recently to cancer. It is an awful disease.

There are several new treatments, but no cure yet. When this cancer is caught early it is very treatable. There is still a lot of ongoing research.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Adrienne Farricelli on August 23, 2021:

I always thought colorectal cancer testing was started at age 50, but it looks like the age must have lowered recently. Haven't seen a doctor for a while honestly so I am likely not up-to-date. When the age lowers it sadly seems to suggest that this cancer is impacting younger people. I recently lost a close acquaintance to this cancer. I hope research is able to find a treatment.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I am so sorry to hear about your sisters, and I know this is a painful topic for you. I appreciate you sharing your personal experience.

I am glad you are screened regularly. The prep is the tough part for sure as we sleep peacefully through the test.

I appreciate your new verb. Haha! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I pray you stay healthy, Linda. Take care of yourself.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 23, 2021:

Pamela, I hate cancer with a passion, and this one in particular. One sister was diagnosed at an early stage, received treatment and recovered, but the radiation therapy did a number on her bones and she can barely walk. My oldest sister never went to the doctor, never had screenings, and discovered too late that she had Stage 4 colon cancer. She died within 5 months.

Needless to say, I am screened often. As Bill said, it's no fun. Actually the procedure itself is a piece of cake. The prep is lousy, but they're getting better at it.

Thank you for providing this information in such a thoughtful, well-organized way (you Pamela'd it) (That's a new verb I just made up). This is something everyone needs to know.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I am glad you found this article to be useful with good information.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a very good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Shauna,

Coming from such a healthy gene pool is great. I would still suggest you eat healthy and exercise.w

Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I appreciate your comments, as always.

Have a great week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Olusegun,

I am sorry to learn you do not have available testing. The only thing you can do in that case is to eat healthy and just try to live a healthy lifestyle.

I am glad you liked the article, Thank you so much for your comments. Have a good week!

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on August 23, 2021:

Pamela, This is a fantastic article with a lot of useful information regarding colorectal cancer. I found this article to be quite useful and instructive, and I will share it with a friend. I hope she will also find it helpful. Thanks a lot for sharing this very useful information.

Blessings and Hugs

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

I thought you always ate pretty healthy. Getting Checked annually is smart.

I am glad you found the article informational. Thank you so much for your comments.

Have a great week!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 23, 2021:

This is a very informative article and one to pay attention to, Pamela.

I've never had a colonoscopy. My doctor doesn't fight me when I decline. Colon cancer does not run in my family. My 83-year old parents have never had a colonoscopy and both are extremely healthy.

I'm fortunate to come from a very healthy gene pool. No cancer, no heart disease. Very strong immune systems.

OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on August 23, 2021:

This is a good work Pamela.

Though most of the tests are not done in Nigeria until things have gone worst...

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2021:

This is another excellent and informative article, Pamela. We get tested annually and try to eat plenty of fibrous fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fortunately, neither of us has a family history of cancer, but it is always prudent to take precautions.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

I believe it is important to know the symptoms of colorectal cancer. It is also important to get testing when starting about 45 years of age. A healthy diet is also important. Prevention is an important key.

I am glad you found this article to be informative.

Thank you so much for your comments. Have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Liz,

You are absolutely right. Early detection means a good chance to live. I am glad you found the article informative.

Thank you for your comments. Have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I agree that colonoscopies are not pleasant. I should be getting another one also, and I dread it! I am glad you found the information to be good.

I appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

I am glad you are getting tested. As you said you have enough to deal with!

I don't know enough about the diet in India to speculate, but regular testing would surely help. I'm glad you found this to be a detailed article as there was so much to explain on this topic.

I appreciate your comments, my sweet friend. Have a wonderful week while traveling!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 23, 2021:

An excellent article, with helpful information about the Colorectal cancer. Sounds scary and a serious disease. I believe, early diagnosis may help.

As we say, prevention is better than cure, it's wise to live a healthy lifestyle, with the right choice of food.

Thank you for sharing the detailed information. This will definitely help many readers.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 23, 2021:

This is a very informative and helpful article. My understanding is that the sooner this is derected the better the prognosis.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 23, 2021:

Wonderful information, my friend. I do the blood test every year. Had a colonoscopy maybe ten years ago. I remember it was not a pleasant experience at all. I probably need to do another one soon. Blah!

manatita44 from london on August 23, 2021:

The therapy is increasing, Pamela. Alas, surgery and chemo are no joke! I have a test once a year. They send me a kit and I do the rest and send it off. God's Grace, High Blood Pressure and Glaucoma, seems enough at the moment. Chuckle.

You have done a very detailed job on the subject. I wonder why India has so many cases? Probably to do with diet, as you say, or the vast number of people.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Umesh,

No one wants to live with a colostomy, but that is sometimes the result fo this cancer. I am glad you found the article informative.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a good week!

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 23, 2021:

Very informative article. I know a patient whose descending column of the large intestine was removed and then he had to live with colostomy.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi John,

Colorectal and bowel cancer are basically the same thing. The testing looks at the colon and the rectal area.

You covered the most important things that will help prevent this cancer. The rates of this cancer are lower in some of the poor countries, and I imagine this is due to no access to fast food, etc.

Thank you for your comments, as they are always appreciated. I hop you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi MG,

It is a difficult topic, but an important one. I am glad you found in interesting,

I appreciate your comments. Have a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

Yes, I know someone who suffered and died from this cancer. It can be awful. The screenings are so very important.

Thank you so much for your comments. Have a good week!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 23, 2021:

These forms of cancer have become so prevalent that we do need to be concerned and take them seriously, eating well, exercising and having regular tests. I routinely get tested every two years for bowel cancer..not sure if colorectal cancer is part of those tests. Thank you for sharing this info, Pamela.

MG Singh from UAE on August 23, 2021:

Very interesting article, Pamela, with lots of knowledge about a subject that is almost taboo. Thank you for sharing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 23, 2021:

Definitely get those screenings. You present important information here. I know someone who had this type of cancer twice and it’s horrible.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Fran,

I agree that diet is a very important component to good health and prevention of diseases.

Thank you for your comments. Have a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 23, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

I am glad you found this article helpful, as this is a serious disease. Many people do get saved through early testing. I know do one wants a colonoscopy, but it is a good way to save lives.

You can certainly pass this article along to your loved ones. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Stay blessed and happy!

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on August 23, 2021:

Pamela, you did it again! A very detailed and informative article and critical to all of us. I do believe diet is a big part of our bodies which is at least something we can control.

Rosina S Khan on August 23, 2021:

Colorectal cancer seems like a serious and deadly disease. Although treatments have improved, I do hope the ongoing research will help to find a cure. I found this article very helpful and informative and would like to pass it on to friends, relatives, and family. Thank you, Pamela, for sharing another uniquely valuable article.

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