How to recognize colorectal cancer

The tumor of the colon-rectum , in agreement with the data published in 2019 by the Italian Association of Cancer Registries ( AIRTUM ), represents the second incidence and mortality, after breast cancer in women and that of the lung in humans. Most of these neoplasms are caused by the malignant transformation of polyps and have a higher incidence in particular family groups (e.g. family adenomatous polyposis, at the basis of which there is a true genetic defect).

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

The risk factors are mainly food-related, since a higher incidence is documented in the presence of high-calorie diets, rich in animal fats and low in fiber. On the contrary, there is scientific evidence that shows that diets with a reduced intake of red meat or mainly vegetarian have a preventive action.

What are the symptoms?

Symptomatology is often late and can consist of the appearance of  abdominal pain , difficulty moving body, changes in the hollow. Even stubborn constipation in people with regular habits can be considered suspicious, as well as diarrhea that becomes chronic. On the other hand, patients who have a tumor located in the last part of the rectum report more frequently that they have stools with a “pencil or tape” appearance. Another often present manifestation is bleeding. In this case, the patient observes the emission of bright red blood, completely or partially coagulated, together with the feces. Finally, other symptoms may be represented by weight loss, decreased appetite, nausea or vomiting episodes.

How is the diagnosis made?

Diagnosis is made by endoscopic examination ( colonoscopy ) with biopsy; once the histological examination has confirmed the diagnosis, a total body CT must always be performed, associated, in tumors of the rectum, with magnetic resonance imaging. In some cases, a PET-CT scan may be indicated.

How can colorectal cancer be treated?

Colorectal cancer treatment is mainly surgical, followed by medical therapy (chemo and immunotherapy). In rectal cancer, depending on how widespread the disease is at the locoregional level, surgery can be preceded by radio and chemotherapy (neoadjuvant treatment).

 

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