What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer that affects the large intestine (colon) and rectum (back passage). It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in US and UK. Read on to view the full details.

Dr. Samrat Jankar Created on 22nd Feb, 21

Most early-stage colorectal cancer has no symptoms at all and is detected during routine screening examinations. The most common symptom of colorectal cancer is a change in bowel habits.


Other symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Having alternate diarrhea or constipation
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
  • Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
  • Frequently having gas, pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
  • Losing weight with no known reason
  • Fatigue, generalized weakness, and anemia
  • Presence of perianal pain and swelling.

Usually, early cancer does not cause pain. It is important not to wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor.



Risk factors are:

  • Familial History of colorectal cancer. First-degree relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, or children) of a person with a history of colorectal cancer are somewhat more at risk to develop. If several close relatives have a history of colorectal cancer, the risk is even greater. This is because of genetic alteration.
  • Environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle, mainly high fat more red and refined meat, and low fiber. Increased sugar, Decreased Calcium, Decreased Garlic, Pulses and non-starchy Vegetables, and long history of constipation.
  • Obesity - 50 to 80% more likely in obese people.
  • Older age more than 50years: More than 90% of people with this disease are diagnosed after age 50. But now day’s younger age also presenting with colorectal cancer developing more aggressive form.
  • Chronic smoking and alcohol consumption: increased risk of developing polyps and colorectal cancer.

Known case of ulcerative colitis and Chon’s disease



Early-stage colorectal cancer presents without any symptoms. The good news about colorectal cancer is majority of cancer arises from pre-existing polyps, which are non-cancerous. This polyp exists in the colon for many years before they turn into cancer. 


Thus if you develop colonic polyp and they are removed early, it decreases the risk for the development of cancer. Even if polyp turns into cancer, if diagnosed in the early stage it is definitely curable through keyhole surgery.



We would advise a normal person without risk to do a colonoscopy starting at age of 50 and to repeat every 5 years. This will reduce risk. According to Dr. Jankar, gastroenterologist in Pune, "too high-risk person such as, familial cancer history or having IBD we recommend to do colonoscopy from the age of 40 years or ten years before they reach the age of their family member who developed cancer." Unfortunately in India, less than 5% of adults are screened for colorectal cancer.


Having colorectal cancer, what next?

  • Don’t worry in the present era, colorectal cancer is 100% treatable if managed properly. Colorectal cancer can be cured if it is removed from the body before it spreads to other organs;
  • Polyp can be cured with colonoscopy without any surgery.
  • Early-stage cancer can be cured with keyhole surgery.
  • Metastatic disease with spread to the liver can be managed very well with newer drugs followed by keyhole surgery.
  • Thanks to advancements in medical technology. Keyhole surgery can be performed and stoma can be prevented in 90% of cases.


Yes! Colorectal cancer can be preventable. Having a healthy high fiber diet, doing regular exercise for at least 45 min and regular screening for cancer whenever indicated can keep you away from colorectal cancer. A few small changes can make a big difference:


To conclude we can say that sensible modification of diet and lifestyle will decrease the 70% risk of colorectal cancer. If you are 50 years or more call your doctor today to schedule a colonoscopy.



Relevant Questions

Q. What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

Colon cancer is also known as colorectal cancer, a term that combines colon cancer with rectal cancer, which starts in the rectum. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer:

  • A change in your bowel habits, such as diarrhoea or constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stool, that persists.
  • Blood in your stool or rectal bleeding.
  • Consistent stomach pain, such as cramps or gas.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness or exhaustion.
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Q. What is colonoscopy and how does it help in treating colon cancer?

A colonoscopy is a procedure in which doctor examines the inside of your large intestine to seek for the cause of symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits.


To check the inside of the colon, doctor will insert a long, flexible tube with a camera on one end into the rectum. A particular diet may be required for 24-48 hours before to the surgery. In a process called as bowel prep, the colon will also need to be cleaned using strong laxatives.


If polyps are discovered in the colon, they will be removed by a surgeon and referred for biopsy. A pathologist examines the polyps under a microscope for malignant or precancerous cells during a biopsy.

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Q. What is incarcerated hernia?

A section of the intestine or abdominal tissue that becomes trapped in the sac of a hernia—the bulge of soft tissue that pushes through a weak place in the abdominal wall—is known as an incarcerated hernia. Stool may not be able to pass through the intestine if a section of it is trapped.


Incarcerated inguinal hernias usually cause swelling in the groin region, and some may show redness. If bowel obstruction has occurred, some additional symptoms may include sudden onset of pain, lack of appetite, irritability, and nausea or vomiting.

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Q. How does non-vegetarian food cause acidity?

Yes, non-vegetarian food causes acidity or may lead to acid peptic disease. If you are experiencing so, then take less spicy and less oily food. You can have chicken and eggs but should avoid them being cooked in a fried oily manner.

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Q. Can i know about bariatric surgery and the criteria on meeting which i will qualify for this surgery?

To be eligible for bariatric surgery, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or have a BMI between 35 and 40.
  • An obesity-related condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or severe sleep apnea.
  • Weigh less than 450 pounds, the maximum weight that hospital radiology equipment can accommodate. If you need to lose weight to meet this requirement, a nutritionist is available to help.
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