Dr. Jeffrey Snow has more than 20 years of experience treating colorectal cancer. you’ll have an experienced and caring team to help you through your journey. In this article, we’ll review some of the basic warning signs and treatment options for colorectal cancer to help you better understand this condition.
What are the Warning Signs and Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer affects more than 140,000 people in the U.S. every year, making it one of the most common cancers in men and women across the country. Unfortunately, more than 50,000 Americans die each year from colorectal cancer. While the condition can be serious, many people don’t understand exactly what colorectal cancer is, how it works, and how it can be treated.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer, more commonly referred to as “colon cancer” or “rectal cancer” starts in the colon or rectum. These types of cancers are often grouped due to their similarities. Cancer, including colorectal cancer, begins when the cells in the body begin to grow out of control.
What Are The Major Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Colon cancer shares symptoms with many other different conditions. Some of these symptoms we mention below may also be caused by other conditions, so be sure to check with your doctor if you experience one or more of them. In most cases, colon cancer is asymptomatic. However, as the tumor(s) grows symptoms may arise. Some of the more common symptoms of colon cancer include:
- Changes in your bowel behavior
- Very dark to bright red blood in the stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Cramps, bloating, gas pains, and related bowel pains
- Narrow stools and/or feeling that the bowel is not being emptied completely
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
If you experience one or more of the symptoms above, your doctor might require you to undergo certain tests for the detection of potential colon or rectal cancer. These tests range from a digital rectal examination or a fecal occult blood test to x-rays or a colonoscopy. If you undergo any other test, make sure you understand the purpose. In addition, you’ll need to read the test reports carefully to fully understand your condition. In any case, your doctor will let you know what the problem is. In the case that cancer tumors are found, you will likely need to undergo surgery. In addition, you may or may not need other cancer treatments.
How Does Colon Cancer Start?
Most colorectal cancers begin as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are more commonly called polyps. Some types of polyps can turn into cancer over time, but this is not always the case. The chance of a polyp turning into cancer depends on what type of polyp it is. The different types of polyps include:
- Sessile serrated polyps (SSP) and traditional serrated adenomas (TSA): These polyps have a higher risk of cancer, therefore, are treated like adenomas.
- Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): These polyps will only sometimes turn into cancer. They are known as possessing a precancerous condition. The 3 types of adenomas are villous, tubular, and tubulovillous.
- Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps: These polyps are more common but are generally not precancerous. Some people with larger (more than 1cm) hyperplastic polyps might need cancer screening with a colonoscopy more often.
Other factors that can make a polyp more prone to contain cancer include size (larger than 1cm), number (more than 3), and dysplasia seen in the polyp. Dysplasia is another precancerous condition where the polyp’s cells look abnormal, but they have not yet become cancerous.
How Does Colorectal Cancer Spread?
If cancer is in the form of a polyp, it can grow into the wall of the colon or rectum over time. This wall is made up of many layers, and cancer will start in the innermost layer (the mucosa) and will grow outward through the rest of the layers.
When the cancer is in the wall, it can grow into blood or lymph vessels, the tiny channels that carry away fluid and waste. From there they can potentially travel to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. The extent of the cancer spreading depends on how deeply it grows into the wall and whether or not it has spread to the rest of the body.
How Do I Treat My Cancer?
Typically, surgery is the only way to treat colorectal cancer. The surgery is used to remove precancerous or cancerous tumors from the colon and rectal region. Depending on where cancer started, there are multiple types of surgeries. On top of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be added for a more effective treatment.
There are various types of colon cancer, the most common being adenocarcinomas, making up 95% of total colorectal cancer cases. Other types of colorectal cancers are very rare. Without polyps, your chances of having this cancer are very low. The other types of colon cancer include lymphomas, sarcomas, gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors, and melanoma tumors.
Types of removal surgeries
- Total colectomy: removing the entire colon
- Hemi-colectomy: only part of the colon is removed
- Sigmoid-colectomy: the lower part of the colon (sigmoid) is removed
- Transverse colectomy: the middle part of the colon (transverse) is removed
What does recovery look like?
Colon cancer surgical patients usually require a brief hospital stay, usually for two to four days after their procedure. The amount of time you spend in the hospital depends on how well you recover after surgery.
During your hospitalization, your surgical care team will follow Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols to promote faster recovery and reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia and blood clots in your legs. ERAS protocols include:
- Encouraging mobility as soon as you can get out of bed
- Avoiding narcotic medications for pain management
- Providing the best nutrition as soon as you can eat
After you return home, aim to resume your normal activities. As soon as you feel up to it, you can climb stairs, go for walks, shower, and even drive. There are very few limitations, but if it hurts, you should stop doing it. You will want to be careful to avoid strenuous activity such as heavy exercise or lifting anything more than 20 pounds until you feel well and your doctor gives his or her approval. Also, avoid taking baths or using hot tubs and swimming pools until your incisions have fully healed.
Where Do I Go for Colorectal Cancer Surgery?
Dr. Jeffrey Snow has been a senior partner at Surgery Specialists of South Florida for 20 years and has spent his entire career practicing medicine in South Florida. Dr. Snow is a board-certified general and colorectal surgeon. He earned his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1982 and completed his internship at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston in 1983. He completed residencies at Albany Medical Center and the Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati, and a fellowship at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
When it comes to dealing with colorectal cancer, you need more than a doctor. You need a partner who will be there with you every step of your recovery journey. Dr. Snow and his staff are dedicated to the care of patients and will treat you and your loved ones with the utmost attention, care, and respect.
If you are experiencing any symptoms mentioned above, are completing your regular checkups, or believe you are at risk, make an appointment by calling: (954) 237-1123 or visiting our website: https://jeffreysnowmd.com/make-an-appointment/ to make a virtual or in-person appointment.