Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Are Rectal Cancer And Colon Cancer The Same

You’ve probably heard of “colorectal cancer,” but colon cancer and rectal cancer aren’t the same.

Dr Sanjay Verma, Additional Director, Minimal access, Bariatric and GI surgery, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute Okhla New Delhi

You’ve probably heard of “colorectal cancer,” but colon cancer and rectal cancer aren’t the same. If you or someone you’re close to has it, you’ll want to know what they have in common and how they differ.

  • What are the differences between colorectal cancer, colon cancer and rectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is defined as cancer arising in the colon and rectum. These cancers can also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Right-sided colon cancer presents with vague symptoms of weakness, anaemia and Left-sided colonic and rectal cancers present with increasing constipation, altered bowel habits and bleeding per rectum.

  • What does pain in colorectal cancer feel like?

Initially colonic and rectal cancer is painless and produces vague symptoms. Pain is a late symptom. Pain signifies sphincter involvement in rectal cancer and luminal obstruction and involvement of intestinal wall in colonic malignancies.

  • Can women get colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is two times more common in men than women. Men and women are equally at risk for colon cancer, but men are more likely to get rectal cancer.

  • Can colorectal cancer be prevented?

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time (usually many years), but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of a polyp turning into cancer depends on the type of polyp it is. (a)Adenomatous polyps (adenomas). Adenomas are called pre-cancerous conditions. The 3 types of adenomas are tubular, villous, and tubulovillous. (b) Hyperplastic polyps (c) Inflammatory polyps: These polyps are more common, but in general they are not pre-cancerous.

Yes, colorectal cancer can be prevented. Patients can be put on surveillance colonoscopies after the age of 50 years. Once polyps appear they can be excised. Colo-Rectal Cancer can be prevented by aspirin, non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, statins, agents that target metabolic pathways, and vitamins (A, C, E) and minerals (Selenium and zinc).

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