Colon Cancer & Hemorrhoids
What is colorectal cancer?
Who is at risk?
What are screening tests, and why are they
What tests are used to screen people for
Do insurance companies pay for colorectal
Does colorectal cancer cause symptoms?
How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?
How is colorectal cancer treated?
Do patients with colorectal cancer participate
in clinical trials (research studies)?
Introduction: Do Hemorrhoids Cause Colon & Rectal Cancer?
People assume they have "piles" or hemorrhoids whenever there is any symptom in the rectal area. This is a misconception. Hemorrhoids do not a cause colorectal cancer. A study done at the Hemorrhoid Care Medical Clinic in 1988, showed that approximately 90% of colon and rectal cancer patients initially thought that they had hemorrhoids, and presented with symptoms of rectal itching and rectal bleeding. So a belief that one has hemorrhoids, could be considered a colorectal cancer warning sign. Other warning signs of colon and rectal cancer are:
- Excess Gas
- Blood in Stools
- Change in Bowel Habits
- Persistent Abdominal Discomfort
- Change in Shape of Color of Stools
- Sensation of Incomplete Evacuation
- Feelings of Tiredness or Exhaustion
Cancer of the colon and rectum is
the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S.A.
today. 1 out of every 17 Americans will get colorectal cancer
at some point in their life. Early diagnosis is the key to
achieving survival. With better diagnostic modalities and
more aggressive approaches, we can improve the present rate
of survival from 62% to 81%, which means an additional 56,000
patients will live each year.
According to the American Cancer Society
(ACS), 90% of all colorectal cancer cases and deaths are thought
to be preventable, based on existing approaches to prevention
and early detection. Screening tests that detect occult blood
in the stool or identify adenomatous polyps can prevent the
occurrence of colorectal cancers by allowing the detection
and removal of pre-cancerous lesions before they undergo malignant
Approximately the five-year survival
rate for colon cancer is 90% when it is diagnosed at an early,
localized stage. However, only 37% of diagnoses are made in
the early stage. As a result, colon cancer is the second deadliest
cancer in the US.
test. Get the polyp. Get the cure.
Colon cancer almost always starts
with a colon polyp, developing
with no symptoms. Finding and removing polyps through early
detection testing before they become cancerous can stop colon
cancer before it even starts. In fact, if all Americans 50
years of age or older had regular tests, annual deaths from
colon cancer could be cut in half.
The death rate from colorectal cancer
has been going down for the past 20 years. This may be because
there are fewer cases, because more of the cases are found
early, and also because treatments have improved.
That is why for most proctologists
and gastrointestinal specialists, the diagnosis and treatment
of colorectal cancer is a priority concern.
Questions and Answers About
Early Detection, and Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
is colorectal cancer?
Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer, and
cancer that begins in the rectum is called rectal cancer.
Cancers affecting either of these organs may also be called
The colon and rectum are parts of
the body's digestive system, which removes nutrients from
food and stores waste until it passes out of the body. Together,
the colon and rectum form a long, muscular tube called the
large intestine (also called the large bowel). The colon is
the first 6 feet of the large intestine, and the rectum is
the last 8 to 10 inches.
rectum, and other parts of digestive system
Colorectal cancer is a disease in
which cells in the colon or rectum become abnormal and divide
without control or order, forming a mass called a tumor. Tumors
can be either benign or malignant.
Benign tumors are not cancer.
They often can be removed and, in most cases, they do not
come back. Cells in benign tumors do not spread to other parts
of the body. Most important, benign tumors are rarely a threat
Malignant tumors are cancer.
Cells in malignant tumors are abnormal and divide without
control or order. These cancer cells can invade and destroy
the tissue around them. Cancer cells can also break away from
a malignant tumor. They may enter the bloodstream or lymphatic
system (the tissues and organs that produce and store cells
that fight infection and disease). This process, called metastasis,
is how cancer spreads from the original (primary) tumor to
form new (secondary) tumors in other parts of the body.
is at risk?
The exact causes of colorectal cancer are not known. However,
studies show that certain factors increase a person's chance
of developing colorectal cancer:
Age. Colorectal cancer is more
likely to occur as people get older. Most people who develop
colorectal cancer are over the age of 50. However, the disease
can occur at any age.
Diet. The development of colorectal
cancer seems to be associated with a diet that is high in
fat and calories and low in foods with fiber, such as whole
grains, fruits, and vegetables. Eating a high
fiber diet helps to prevent colorectal cancer. Patients
that follow Researchers are exploring how these and other
dietary components play a role in the development of colorectal
are benign growths (not cancer) on the inner wall of the colon
or rectum. They are relatively common in people over age 50.
Because most colorectal cancers develop in polyps, detecting
and removing these growths may be a way to prevent colorectal
cancer. Familial polyposis is a rare, inherited condition
in which hundreds of polyps develop in the colon and rectum.
Unless this condition is treated, a person who has it is extremely
likely to develop colorectal cancer.
Personal history. A person
who has already had colorectal cancer may develop colorectal
cancer a second time. Also, research studies show that women
with a history of ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer have
a somewhat increased chance of developing colorectal cancer.
Family history. Close relatives
(parents, siblings, or children) of a person who has had colorectal
cancer are somewhat more likely to develop this type of cancer
themselves, especially if the relative developed the cancer
at a young age. If many family members have had colorectal
cancer, the chances increase even more.
Ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative
colitis is a condition in which the lining of the colon
becomes inflamed. People who have ulcerative colitis are more
likely to develop colorectal cancer.
What are screening tests, and why are they so important?
Screening tests are examinations that check for health problems
before they cause symptoms. Screening tests are important
because finding health problems at an early stage often means
that treatment will be more successful.
Colorectal cancer screening tests
are used to detect cancer, polyps that may eventually become
cancerous, or other abnormal conditions.
Most people who undergo colorectal
screening do not have any colorectal abnormality. For those
who do, diagnosis and treatment can occur promptly.
tests are used to screen people for colorectal cancer?
People who have any risk factors for colorectal cancer should
ask their doctor when to begin screening for colorectal cancer,
what tests to have, and how often to schedule appointments.
Doctors may suggest one or more of the tests listed below
as a part of regular checkups.
A fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
is a test for hidden blood in the stool. This test has
been proven to reduce the death rate of colorectal cancer.
is an examination of the rectum and lower colon with a lighted
is an examination of the rectum and entire colon with a lighted
A double contrast barium enema
is a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum. The x-rays
are taken after the patient is given an enema with a white,
chalky solution that contains barium to outline the colon
and rectum on the x-rays.
A digital rectal exam (DRE)
is a test in which the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved
finger into the rectum to feel for abnormal areas.
Virtual Colonoscopy can be performed with computed tomography (CT), sometimes called a CAT scan, or with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
insurance companies pay for colorectal cancer screening?
People should check with their health insurance provider to
determine their colorectal cancer screening benefits. People
who are age 50 or older and are covered by Medicare are eligible
for colorectal cancer screening benefits. Additional information
is available on the Medicare Web site at http://www.medicare.gov/health/overview.asp
on the Internet.
colorectal cancer cause symptoms?
Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include the following:
- Change in bowel habits
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling
that the bowel does not empty completely
- Blood in the stool (either bright
red or very dark in color)
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- General abdominal discomfort (frequent
gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
- Weight loss with no known reason
- Constant tiredness
These symptoms can be caused by cancer
or by a number of other conditions. It is important to check
with a doctor.
is colorectal cancer diagnosed?
To find the cause of symptoms, the doctor evaluates one's
personal and family medical history. The doctor also performs
a physical exam and may order one or more diagnostic tests.
These may include a blood test called a CEA assay to measure
a protein called carcinoembryonic antigen that is sometimes
higher in patients with colorectal cancer. The
doctor may also order x-rays of the gastrointestinal tract
, sigmoidoscopy , or colonoscopy. If abnormal tissue is found
during these tests, a biopsy (the removal of tissue for examination
under a microscope by a pathologist) is performed to determine
if a person has cancer.
If the diagnosis is cancer, the doctor
will want to learn the stage (or extent) of disease. Staging
is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread
and, if so, to what parts of the body. Knowing the stage of
the disease helps the doctor plan treatment. Additional tests
may be performed to help determine the stage.
is colorectal cancer treated?
Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on a number of factors,
including the general health of the patient and the size,
location, and extent of the tumor. Many different treatments
and combinations of treatments are used to treat colorectal
Surgery to remove the cancer
is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. The type
of surgery that a doctor performs depends mainly on where
the cancer is found.
Chemotherapy is the use of
anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The anticancer drugs
circulate in the bloodstream and affect cancer cells throughout
Radiation therapy, also called
radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy x-rays to kill
cancer cells. Radiation therapy affects the cancer cells only
in the treated area.
Biological therapy, also called
immunotherapy, uses the body's immune system, either directly
or indirectly, to fight cancer. The immune system recognizes
cancer cells in the body and works to eliminate them. Biological
therapies are designed to repair, stimulate, or enhance the
immune system's natural anticancer function.
patients with colorectal cancer participate in clinical trials
Yes, patients with all stages of colorectal cancer can take
part in clinical trials (research studies). Clinical trials
to evaluate new ways to treat cancer are an appropriate treatment
option for many patients with this disease. Through research,
doctors learn new ways to treat cancer that may be more effective
than the standard therapy. Research has led to significant
advances in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Information
about ongoing clinical trials is available from the Cancer
Information Service (see below), or from the National Cancer
Institute's cancerTrials™ Web site at http://cancertrials.nci.nih.gov
on the Internet.
Cancer Information Service
Toll-free: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
TTY (for deaf and hard of hearing callers): 1-800-332-8615
1. Video: Colon
Cancer Tutorial - The National Library of Medicine
2. Video: Colon
Cancer Surgery Tutorial - The National Library of Medicine
3) Video: Radiation
Therapy Tutorial - The National Library of Medicine
4) Video: Chemotherapy
Tutorial - The National Library of Medicine