FACTS ABOUT COLON, RECTUM AND ANUS CANCER

Cancer that originates in the colon, rectum, or anus are commonly referred to as colorectal cancers, and they are the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women. Some types of cancer that originate in the bowel are hereditary, so if you or someone in your family has ever been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it is recommended that other family members get screened. This is especially important if you or a family member were diagnosed with a colorectal cancer before age 50, or if there are several other types of cancers that run in your family.

There are treatments available for colorectal cancers that can help manage symptoms in some cases. You can learn more about colorectal cancers, available treatments, side effects, and more by clicking on the links below.


Risk Factors

There are a variety of factors that can increase your risk of colon cancer, and being proactive about your health is your best prevention mechanism. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Older age: Colon cancer can occur in younger individuals, but is much more frequent in adults over 50. This is why colonoscopies are recommended for adults around this time.
  • African-American Race: The risk for colon cancer is higher for African-Americans than for other races.
  • Inheritance and/or Family History: Genetic abnormalities can be passed down through generations of family members that can increase the risk of colon cancer. If one or multiple family members have developed colon cancer, the risk is even higher.
  • Unhealthy Diet: Low-fiber and high-fat diets are bad for your overall health, as well as your colon. Do your best to eat a well-balanced diet to lower your risk of colon cancer and other potential health problems down the line.
  • Diabetes: High levels of hyperinsulinemia, or high levels of insulin, have been found to be a contributing factor of colon cancer.
  • Lack of Exercise: Neglecting your physical health is a well-known risk factor for a variety of conditions and colon cancer is no exception. Get into the habit of exercising 2-3 times per week, as it will help you live a longer and healthier life.

If you have any additional concerns about your risk for colon cancer, talk to your physician.

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HOW ARE COLON, RECTUM AND ANUS CANCERS TREATED?

Common treatments for colorectal cancers include radiation therapy, surgery, and other treatments. The type of treatment that you will receive for your colorectal cancer depends on the cancer’s origin, its stage of advancement, and your overall health. After an initial evaluation, your doctor will be able to determine what treatment, or combination of treatment in some case, will be best suited for you. You can learn more about the treatments methods for colorectal cancer below.

Radiation Therapy For Colorectal Cancer

While there are different types of radiation therapy, colorectal cancer is typically treated using external beam radiation therapy. This treatment delivers concentrated beams of radiation to the bowel and pelvis, killing the cancer cells in the affected area. For the treatment of colorectal cancers, radiation therapy may be combined with chemotherapy and/or surgery.

Compared to other treatment methods, radiation therapy can be more effective at protecting healthy organs and tissue, since the healthy cells have the ability to heal from radiation damage. Organ-preservation can possibly negate the need to remove the anus surgically, allowing the patient to continue to be able to have bowel movements through the anus. In some cases, the anus may still need to be removed, which would require the patient to wear a bag on the outside of the abdomen to collect and store bowel movements.

The process of radiation therapy typically begins with a CT scan and an initial examination to map out the treatment area, in addition to placing markings on the body to ensure accurate radiation delivery. The frequency and radiation dosage varies on a case-to-case basis depending on individual needs, but it is common for treatment to be delivered five days per week over the course a several weeks.

Surgical Treatment For Colorectal Cancer

Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancers, removing the affected portion of the large bowel (the colon). Since colon cancers can spread to the lymph nodes, it is possible that these will need to be removed surgically as well. Depending upon the location of the tumor, surgery may or may not allow normal bowel function afterwards.

For anal cancers, surgery is less likely to be the main treatment, since it is possible for other approaches such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy to preserve healthy organs and tissue. Depending on the stage of the cancer, surgery may still be necessary. Surgery for the anal canal involves removing the area responsible for bowel movements. A surgery called a “colostomy” to re-route bowel movements to a bag outside of the body is usually necessary as well.

Chemotherapy For Colorectal Cancer

Chemotherapy uses one or more types of drugs to combat the growth and development of cancer cells. This treatment is typically used in conjunction with radiation or surgery, possibly improving cure rates. A medical oncologist will evaluate you and determine what medications may be most helpful for treating you case of colorectal cancer.

The dose and treatment schedule of your chemotherapy or other medical treatments varies, depending on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as your overall health.

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EXTERNAL BEAM RADIATION THERAPY

External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily treatments that accurately deliver radiation to the area needing treatment. The radiation beam usually comes from a machine called a linear accelerator. Before beginning treatment, you will be scheduled for a session to map out the area to be treated. This will frequently involve having a CT scan. Landmarks placed on your skin (often tiny tattoos) allow the radiation therapists delivering your treatments to position you in the same position each day.

To minimize side effects, the treatments are usually spread out over several weeks, five days a week (Monday through Friday). This allows your doctors to get enough radiation into your body to kill the tumor cells, while giving healthy cells time to recover each day.

Technical terms that may be mentioned for colorectal and anal cancer treatments include three dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3-D CRT), intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). Your radiation oncologist can provide more information about these different techniques.

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What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Colorectal Cancer Therapy?

Side effects that occur are not the same for all patients, and vary depending on the type of treatment and type of cancer being treated. Ask your doctor what side effects you might expect from your specific treatment program. Some patients do not experience any side effects from treatment. In the event that side effects do occur, tell your doctor or nurse, and they will help you control the symptoms with medication or diet adjustments.

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CONTACT YOUR LOCAL RADIATION ONCOLOGY CENTER TODAY!

At Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center, our cancer treatment team is committed to providing the professional care that you and your family deserve. Our treatment center keeps you close to home, and is with you every step of the way in the battle against cancer. If you have any questions about treatment or surgical options for colorectal cancers, contact us today

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Colon, Rectum, and Anus Cancer Resources

Colon Cancer Alliance

1-877-422-2030
www.ccalliance.org

Colorectal Cancer Coalition (C3)

202-244-2906
www.fightcolorectalcancer.org

Also see Helpful Links

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BROCHURE

Download a helpful brochure from www.rtanswers.org

*Content provided by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, www.rtanswers.org, and the American Cancer Society.

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