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Colorectal Cancer

This large intestine is made up of the colon (the upper five to six feet) and the rectum (the last six to eight inches). This is where the last state of digestion occurs and where solid waste is held until it is released. Colorectal cancer is second only to lung cancer among cancers that kill both men and women.  Mostly credited to an increase in screening for and removal of polyps, the incidence has been declining during the past decade.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 130,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in a given year and more than 56,000 will die from the disease.  It strikes men and women nearly equally.  Colorectal cancer develops over a ten to fifteen year period and produces no symptoms until it's advanced.

In its early stage, colorectal cancer usually produces no symptoms. The most likely warning signs include: Changes in bowel movements, including persistent constipation or diarrhea, a feeling of not being able to empty the bowel completely, an urgency to move the bowels, rectal cramping, or rectal bleeding; Dark patches of blood in or on stool; or long, thin, "pencil stools"; Abdominal discomfort or bloating; Unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, and/or weight loss pelvic pain, which occurs at later stages of the disease; 

How Is Colorectal Cancer Diagnosed?

Beginning at the age of 50, everyone should be screened regularly for colorectal cancer (earlier screening is recommended for some high-risk groups). There are several options:  The traditional screening routine was for the doctor to perform a digital rectal exam once a year and for you to collect three stool samples to be tested for traces of blood. 

Many colon cancer treatment options are available for colorectal cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Here’s what to expect from each type of treatment and tips for recovery.

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