Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States, and is the third most common cancer related disease. It is estimated for 2010 that 102,900 new cases of colon cancer, and 39,370 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. It is important to recognize the symptoms of this disease, and to understand that the risk of being diagnosed with it increase dramatically after a person reaches 50 years of age.
Cancer is known to be uncontrolled growth of bodily cells. Metastasis is when the cancer cells originate in one part of the body, and then migrate to other areas of the body and set up other secondary tumors in these locations. Colon cancer usually takes at least a few years to develop, and begins as a small polyp in the colon or rectum. Symptoms include:
- A change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea,
- A feeling of incomplete bowel movement,
- Small, ribbon-like stools,
- Blood in the stool-may be red or it may make the stool noticeably darker than usual,
- Fatigue-a lack of energy that may be due to anemia (a shortage of red blood cells in the blood),
- Weight loss-especially when unwanted or cannot be accounted for by dieting. This is a symptom of many forms of cancer.
- Abdominal distension/bloating-may be due to obstruction of the colon or bowel caused by cancer growths,
- Loss of appetite.
The survival statistics for colorectal cancer are complex. There are 5 year survival rates for 8 stages of cancer, labeled as Stages I, IIA, IIB, IIC, IIIA, IIIB, IIIC, IV. They range from 74% for Stage I all the way down to 6% for Stage IV. I computed a simple average of these numbers, and it yielded an average of 48%, but this is not a rigorously scientific or weighted average. I just wanted to get a ‘ball park’ figure, and this roughly equates to a 1 in 2 chance that a patient diagnosed with colorectal cancer will be alive 5 years from the date of diagnosis.