Rectal cancer (tumor)

Abdomen | Oncology | Rectal cancer (tumor) (Disease)


The rectum is the lower part of the colon that connects the large bowel to the anus. The rectums primary function is to store formed stool in preparation for evacuation. Rectal cancer is the colon cancer localized in the rectum. Like colon cancer, the prognosis and treatment of rectal cancer depends on how deeply the cancer has invaded the rectal wall and surrounding lymph nodes.

However, although the rectum is part of the colon, the location of the rectum in the pelvis poses additional challenges in treatment when compared with colon cancer. These and other symptoms may be caused by rectal cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur: a change in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, stools that are narrower or have a different shape than usual, blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool, general abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps), change in appetite, weight loss for no known reason, feeling very tired.

Causes and Risk factors

Rectal cancer usually develops over several years, first growing as a precancerous growth called a polyp. Some polyps have the ability to turn into cancer and begin to grow and penetrate the wall of the rectum.

The actual cause of rectal cancer is unclear. However, the following are risk factors for developing rectal cancer: increasing age, smoking, family history of colon or rectal cancer, high-fat diet and/or a diet mostly from animal sources, personal or family history of polyps or colorectal cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A colonoscopy and a biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. Imaging and blood tests can help determine the extent of disease.

Surgical removal of a tumor is the cornerstone of curative therapy for localized rectal cancer. In addition to removing the rectal tumor, removing the fat and lymph nodes in the area of a rectal tumor is also necessary to minimize the chance that any cancer cells might be left behind. ...