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Senior Health Week: Colorectal Cancer
Health News You Can Use •

Latest Colorectal Cancer News:

Cancer Location in Colon Not a Factor in Recurrence: Researchers say the location of cancer does not appear to be a factor in whether the cancer subsequently recurs after it has been surgically removed.

Recent Colorectal Cancer News:

Black Colorectal Cancer Survival Rate Same as for Whites: Researchers say African Americans have almost an identical colorectal cancer survival rate to whites when they get equivalent treatment.

Diet Rich in Sucrose May Be Linked to Colon Cancer: Researchers report a study of the effect of diets rich in sucrose in rats suggests a possible direct link between level of sucrose intake and colon cancer in humans.

Human Growth Hormone Linked to Colorectal Cancer: British researchers report finding a higher incidence of colorectal cancer in patients treated with human pituitary growth hormone between 1959 and 1985.

Screening Strongly Recommended for Everyone Over Age 50: Updated federal health guidelines say new evidence proves testing can prevent deaths from colorectal cancer.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protect Against Colon Cancer: Researchers report they have demonstrated how omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil offer protection against colon cancer.

Age, Income, Insurance All Factors in Determining Treatment: Researchers report that patients over the age of 75 were at higher risk of having a treatment plan that did not include radiation or chemotherapy after surgery than patients under age 65.

Lowfat Dairy Foods May Help Cut Risk of Colon Cancer: Researchers say increasing calcium consumption from sources including milk, cheese and yogurt slows the abnormal growth of cells that eventually may lead to colon cancer.

Women Who Drink a Lot of Juice May Cut Risk of Colon Polyps: But researchers say while juice may lower the risk of polyps that can eventually develop into colon cancer for women, it does not appear to lower risk for men.

Vitamin E Seen Helping Advanced Colorectal Cancer Patients: Researchers say the antioxidant vitamin E may be used to improve the immune functions in patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

Chemotherapy/Radiation Combo Best for Seniors With Stage III Cancer: Researchers said the standard of care for locally advanced rectal cancer in the United States also would improve survival for seniors with stage III rectal cancer.

Test for Protein in Stool Samples Detects Colon Cancer: A new test based on detection of a protein in stool samples appears to be a noninvasive and accurate method of detecting colon cancer, according to British researchers.

3-Year Screenings Recommended for Some With Colon Cancer Family History: Researchers say those with polyps should be screened every three years instead of the once every ten years recommended for persons at average risk.

Vitamin D May Provide Some Protection Against Colon Cancer: Researchers report they have found that vitamin D may provide some protection against the increased risk of colon cancer associated with a high fat diet.

Raltitrexed Far More Toxic Than Chemotherapy: Researchers report the antimetabolite drug raltitrexed appears to be less desirable than two fluorouracil-based chemotherapy regimens for treating patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

Enzyme Predicts Whether Patients Will Benefit From Chemotherapy: Researchers report that following colorectal cancer surgery, measurement of the tumor's thymidylate synthase (TS) level may help predict which patients will benefit -- and which may do worse -- if they have follow-up chemotherapy.

Smaller Food Portions May Be Key to Reducing Risk of Colon Cancer: Researchers report mice fed a restricted-calorie diet were 60 perecent less likely to develop pre-cancerous colon polyps than mice fed regular diets.

Virtual Colonoscopy May Be Better After Surgery or Radiation: Researchers report that a virtual colonoscopy may be a better option than a conventional colonoscopy for colorectal cancer patients who have had surgery, radiation or both.

Colorectal Cancer Patients at Increased Risk of Other Cancers: Researchers say that for patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the number of subsequent cancers of the small intestine, uterus, ovaries and eyes was higher than expected..

Sigmoidoscopy May Miss Half of Colon Cancers in Elderly: Researchers say that the frequency of right-sided colon cancer increases with patient age, and the sigmoidoscope does not reach the right side of the colon.

PET Scan May Help Prevent Futile Surgery in Colon Cancer Return: Dutch researchers report that Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans may be helpful in preventing futile surgery in some cases where colon cancer has returned and spread outside the liver.

Daily Calcium Significantly Cuts Risk of Colon Cancer: Harvard researchers report that for people whose diets are low in calcium, a modest increase appears to substantially reduce the risk of some types of colon cancer.

More Folate, Less Alcohol, May Cut Colon Cancer Risk: Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report that women who have a parent or sibling with colon cancer can markedly lower their own risk by taking a daily multivitamin that includes folic acid and limiting their intake of alcohol.

Colorectal Cancer Primer:

Colorectal cancer is cancer that arises in the colon or rectum—the part of the body's digestive system which moves nutrients from food and stores waste until it passes out of the body. Colorectal cancer occurs when cells in the colon or rectum become abnormal and divide without control or order. Cancer cells can invade and destroy the tissue around them. They can also break away from the tumor and spread to form new tumors in other parts of the body.

  • The exact causes of colorectal cancer are not known. However, studies show that certain factors increase a person's chance of developing colorectal cancer:
  • Age. Colorectal cancer is more likely to occur as people get older. Most people who develop colorectal cancer are over the age of 50. However, the disease can occur at any age.
  • Diet. The development of colorectal cancer seems to be associated with a diet that is high in fat and calories and low in foods with fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Researchers are exploring how these and other dietary components play a role in the development of colorectal cancer.
  • Polyps. Polyps are benign growths (not cancer) on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. They are relatively common in people over age 50. Because most colorectal cancers develop in polyps, detecting and removing these growths may be a way to prevent colorectal cancer. Familial polyposis is a rare, inherited condition in which hundreds of polyps develop in the colon and rectum. Unless this condition is treated, a person who has it is extremely likely to develop colorectal cancer.
  • Personal history. A person who has already had colorectal cancer may develop colorectal cancer a second time. Also, research studies show that women with a history of ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer have a somewhat increased chance of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Family history. Close relatives (parents, siblings, or children) of a person who has had colorectal cancer are somewhat more likely to develop this type of cancer themselves, especially if the relative developed the cancer at a young age. If many family members have had colorectal cancer, the chances increase even more.
  • Ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a condition in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed. People who have ulcerative colitis are more likely to develop colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer screening tests are used to detect cancer, polyps that may eventually become cancerous, or other abnormal conditions. Most people who undergo colorectal screening do not have any colorectal abnormality. For those who do, diagnosis and treatment can occur promptly.

People who have any risk factors for colorectal cancer should ask their doctor when to begin screening for colorectal cancer, what tests to have, and how often to schedule appointments. Doctors may suggest one or more of the tests listed below as a part of regular checkups.

  • A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a test for hidden blood in the stool. This test has been proven to reduce the death rate of colorectal cancer.
  • A sigmoidoscopy is an examination of the rectum and lower colon with a lighted instrument.
  • A colonoscopy is an examination of the rectum and entire colon with a lighted instrument.
  • A double contrast barium enema is a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum. The x-rays are taken after the patient is given an enema with a white, chalky solution that contains barium to outline the colon and rectum on the x-rays.
  • A digital rectal exam (DRE) is a test in which the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormal areas.

Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include the following:

  • A change in bowel habits.
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely.
  • Blood in the stool (either bright red or very dark in color).
  • Stools that are narrower than usual.
  • General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps).
  • Weight loss with no known reason.
  • Constant tiredness.
  • Vomiting.

To find the cause of symptoms, the doctor evaluates one's personal and family medical history. The doctor also performs a physical exam and may order one or more diagnostic tests. These may include:

  • A blood test called a CEA assay to measure a protein called carcinoembryonic antigen that is sometimes higher in patients with colorectal cancer.]
  • A biopsy, the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist, may be done to determine if a person has cancer.
  • X-rays of the gastrointestinal tract, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy.

Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on a number of factors, including the general health of the patient and the size, location, and extent of the tumor.

  • Surgery to remove the cancer is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. The type of surgery that a doctor performs depends mainly on where the cancer is found.
  • Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The anticancer drugs circulate in the bloodstream and affect cancer cells throughout the body.
  • Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy x–rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy affects the cancer cells only in the treated area.
  • Biological therapy, also called immunotherapy, uses the body's immune system, either directly or indirectly, to fight cancer. The immune system recognizes cancer cells in the body and works to eliminate them. Biological therapies are designed to repair, stimulate, or enhance the immune system's natural anticancer function.

Background information provided by: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892






































































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