Rectal Cancer Facts: What You Need To Know

Rectal cancer is a kind of cancer that starts in a part of the large intestines known as the rectum.  This kind of cancer is also often referred to as cancer of the large intestines, bowel cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Rectal cancer happens when the cells in the rectum, also known as the colon, multiply rapidly and uncontrollably, resulting to the damage of other surrounding tissues and later on interfering with the rectum's normal functions.

However, rectal cancer may be cured with early diagnosis.  When detected early, there is a 90% chance for the cancer to be cured.rectal cancer

Signs and Symptoms

There are barely any alarming symptoms that occur in the early stages of rectal cancer.  Most rectal cancers start as polyps.  Polyps are small, non-cancerous growths that may reside in the colon wall with tendencies to grow in size and become cancerous.  As these polyps grow, they may bleed or even become obstructions in the intestines.

The early-warning signs of rectal cancer may include the following:

1. a change in one's bowel habits such as constipation, or a change in the stool's caliber
2. presence of blood in the stool (may be melena or hematochezia)
3. and, bowel obstruction caused by a tumor

Other less specific signs and symptoms of rectal cancer may include:

1. anemia, having symptoms such as malaise, tiredness, and pallor
2. unexplainable weight loss
3. and, hepatomegaly (the condition of having enlarged liver) due to the spread of tumors

Risk Factors

There is a 7% lifetime risk of contracting rectal cancer in the United States.  These may be attributed to certain factors that may vary from person to person.

1. The risk of being stricken with rectal cancer increases as a person gets older.  Usually, people get it in their 60s and 70s.  However, most cases that occur before the age of 50 are rare unless a family history for the disease is present.

2. Women previously diagnosed with other cancers like that of the ovary, breast, or uterus, are at a higher risk of getting rectal cancer.

3. Heredity plays a big role in the development of rectal cancer especially among people before the age of 55.

4. Smokers have a higher risk of contracting and dying from rectal cancer than people who do not smoke.

5. A diet that is high in red meat and low in fresh produce, fish and poultry may increase the risk of rectal cancer.  Decreased risk among people who frequently had fish is evident.  However, this theory remains to be controversial.

6. Physically active people have a lower risk of contracting rectal cancer.


The kind of treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. Rectal cancer when caught in the early stages and with little spread is highly curable. On the other hand, when detected in its later stages when there is a high metastases, the cancer is already less likely to be cured and may eventually lead to death.

Surgical treatment for rectal cancer is most effective for localized tumors.  For the more advanced stages of rectal cancer, section of the rectum or colon having the tumors may require surgical removal.  Note that in some very rare cases, rectal surgery may result to complications like abscess, infections, bowel obstruction or fistula.

Chemotherapy, as well as radiotherapy may also be recommended depending on the patient's cancer stage and other significant medical factors.




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