This lesson will discuss colorectal cancer, adenocarcinoma, and adenomas. We will talk about the early warning signs that someone may develop colorectal cancer as well as diagnostic and treatment strategies.
Warning Signs Before Cancer
People invented warning signs for a reason. We've got warning signs on the roads telling you to slow down, watch for boulders, ice on a bridge, and for a dangerous curve. These are there to save your life. I think that most people heed these early warnings because no one really wants to fall off of a cliff and die.
Our body is also full of warning signals that tell us that something dangerous is happening or is about to happen. For some strange reason, some people, stereotypically men, do not heed these warnings and end up needlessly dying as a result. This lesson will be about one specific form of cancer and the many warning signs associated with it.
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer in the United States, is a malignant tumor of the large intestine's colon and/or rectum. Specifically, the most common type of colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is an adenocarcinoma. An adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that develops from glandular tissues and cells. The prefix 'adeno-' refers to a gland and '-carcinoma' refers to a malignant tumor.
The colon is full of glands that are responsible for lubricating the passage of feces. If this lubricating mucus wasn't there, believe me, it would be very painful to go number two. It would feel like you've got sandpaper down there. In general, cancer can arise for any number of reasons, but genetic predisposition to a cellular mutation or damage from other diseases, toxins, and pathogens can exacerbate this predisposition or can cause cancer all on its own. The ultimate result is that normal cells become cancerous, grow out of control, and spread, resulting in a person's death.
The way cancer mutates, then grows out of control and spreads reminds me of human mob mentality. Many times gigantic riots start from one oddball event, akin to a mutation, that captivates a lot of people, and spreads around city streets wreaking havoc and death upon anyone the mob reaches.
In hindsight, news organizations always have 20/20 vision and claim that there were plenty warning signs that should've been seen and acted upon prior to this massive riot. Therefore, it's important we now look into what the warning signs - that is to say risk factors - are for the development of colorectal cancer so that you are aware of what to look out for long before a big mob, or a big tumor, grows out of control.
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
For starters, an adenocarcinoma is sometimes preceded by an adenoma, which is a benign tumor of glandular origin. Note how, because the prefix 'adeno-' is present, we are still referring to glands, but because the suffix '-carcinoma' is missing from 'adenoma,' we are not implying a malignant tumor when we say the word 'adenoma.'
The adenoma that most everyone is familiar with respect to this cancer is an adenomatous polyp, or simply 'polyp.' Some of these polyps can develop into colorectal cancer. That is why a rectal exam, even with the finger alone or via colonoscopy, is so important for people. A polyp is like a big red warning sign telling you and your doctor 'stop, pay attention, there is something very wrong here, and it must be taken care of now so it doesn't get any worse.' If a polyp is removed, cancer can be prevented. If cancer can be prevented, your life can be saved.
Speaking of rectal exams with a finger, it may not be comfortable and maybe a little bit embarrassing, but consider this: 50%, a full half, of all rectal cancers can be detected with your doctor's finger alone. I think that being slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable is a bit better than not catching this disease early on. I also think you'd agree.
This is doubly true if you are over the age of 50. If you go over 50 miles per hour on some roads with the posted speed limit being a warning not to do so, then you may place yourself in danger. Well, in colorectal cancer, 90% of cases occur after the age of 50. It's also sometimes recommended that screening for colorectal cancer begins earlier, just in case, around age 40, especially if you have a family history of this disease.
Other warning signs for potential colorectal cancer development include inflammatory bowel disease, diets high in fat, and alcohol consumption. In a manner of speaking, the phrase 'don't drink and drive to survive' can be applicable to the development of colorectal cancer as well.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to diagnose this disease, a colonoscopy with a biopsy can be performed and blood tests will be run to reveal things like anemia due to chronic blood loss as a result of the tumors themselves. You should therefore logically expect blood in the feces as another sign to look out for in people with colorectal cancer. Treatment involves surgical excision, chemotherapy with a drug called 5-FU (also known as fluorouracil), and radiation therapy that zaps cancer cells away.
This lesson covered the important points with respect to colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer in the United States, which is a malignant tumor of the large intestine's colon and/or rectum. Specifically, the most common type of colorectal cancer is known as an adenocarcinoma. An adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that develops from glandular tissues and cells. An adenomacarcinoma can be preceded by an adenoma, which is a benign tumor of glandular origin. These adenomas are sometimes called by their colloquial name: polyps.
These objectives can be achieved by watching this lesson:
- Paraphrase the definition of colorectal cancer
- Recollect the most common type of colorectal cancer and point out its major cause
- Write the warning signs of and risk factors for colorectal cancer
- Discuss the way in which colorectal cancer is diagnosed and treated