What is colorectal cancer?

The large intestine is made of different segments: the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and rectum ending in the anal canal. Its role is predominantly to convert liquid stools into solid faeces in addition to functions. Cancers arising in the large intestines are called colorectal cancers. The rectal cancers are considered separately because of their unique behavior, response to different cancer treatments and the peculiar anatomical location of the rectum.

How does colorectal cancer start?

Usually, the colorectal cancers start as a small polyp which over years can transform into invasive cancer. This polyp to cancer transformation gives us an insight into cancer development and allows us to intervene at different points to prevent or treat cancer. Screening colonoscopies can detect the precancerous polyps and removal of the endoscopically effective prevents cancer thus making it a truly preventable cancer.

What is the survival rate of colorectal cancer?

Of all the cancers in the body colorectal cancer is one of the cancers that has shown improved survival rates over the last 3 decades because of the advent of better surgical, medical (chemotherapy and targeted therapy) and radiation treatment options.

Can colorectal cancer be cured?

Colorectal can be prevented and if detected in early stages it is curable.

Cancer statistics commonly use a five-year interval when it comes to sharing relative survival rates. For colorectal cancer (like many other cancers) the risk of recurrence, which means cancer returns after a period of being gone, significantly decreases once a patient has been disease-free for at least five years. This doesn’t mean cancer can’t or won’t return, but the probability goes way down. It’s important to discuss the chances of recurrence with your doctor.

Stage I and II: 5-year survival is nearly 90 percent (SEER data)

Stage III and IV: 5-year survival is 70 percent and 20 percent respectively (SEER data)

What are the end stages of colon cancer?

When colorectal cancer spreads to multiple organs like the lung, liver, bones, peritoneal surface and it is deemed non-curable we call it end-stage colon cancer. Newer modalities of treatment like immunotherapy may be of hope in selective patients.

What is the most common type of colorectal cancer?

Colon cancer is more common than rectal cancer across the world. But in India, most centers see more rectal cancers than colon cancer.

Symptoms (early-stage and end-stage)


Right-sided Colon cancer in early stages may not have any symptoms or present non-specifically as anaemia or increased frequency of stools or abdominal discomfort. Early left-sided colon cancers and rectal cancers can present as the alteration in bowel habits, blood in stools or mucus in stools. Late cancers can present as bowel obstruction. Rarely the first presentation can be that of a distant spread like bone pain, lung, or liver spread. Patients can also be detected to have colorectal cancer during routine screening.

  • Throat pain
  • Ear pain
  • Altered speech
  • Painful swallowing
  • Blood in sputum
  • Bad breath
  • Hoarseness of voice

Risk Factors

Risk factors for colon or rectal cancer are as follows:

  • Smoking
  • Family history of CRC (colorectal cancer)
  • Familial syndromes like FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis coli) or HNPCC (Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer)
  • Large and regular consumption of red and processed meat
  • Inflammatory bowel disease especially Ulcerative colitis
  • Obesity

What type of food causes colon cancer?

Diet low on fiber, fruits and vegetables and rich on red and processed meat predisposes to CRC various risk factors - mentioned above

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