About Rectal Cancer
Rectal cancer is characterized by a growth of malignant tumors that begins in the rectum. The rectum is classified as the last few inches of the colon where stool collects before it is expelled from the body through the anus. Rectal cancer and colon cancer share a great deal in common, including their symptoms, potential causes, treatments, and origins with the only true distinction being the location of the development of cancer. Rectal cancer usually starts off with the growth of benign polyps. If not treated or removed, these polyps can mutate and multiply, causing cancerous tumors to form.
Cancer of the rectum generally does not cause symptoms to emerge until it's further along so it's crucial for people over 50 years of age to have routine colon and rectal cancer screenings. This is especially critical since more than 90% of reported rectal cancer cases occur in older patients. Our skilled team of colorectal specialists at Houston Colon and Rectal Surgery can help manage and treat rectal, colon, or anal cancer at various stages. Contact one of our North Houston or West Houston, TX offices if you're experiencing any issues or notice any abnormalities in your bowel movements.
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Signs and Symptoms
Although there's no definitively known cause for rectal cancer at present, research has shown a strong link between cases of colorectal cancer and specific DNA mutations. People with a family history or personal history of rectal cancer, colon cancer, or inflammatory bowel diseases (like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) are at an increased risk to contract the disease, most likely in their later years. Even though rectal cancer does not always carry notable symptoms, some sensations you may experience if you have rectal cancer are:
- Rectal bleeding or seeing blood in your stool
- A feeling of not being able to fully relieve yourself when passing stool
- Unexpected weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Gas or cramping
- A change in your regular bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or stool that's too firm or runny
When you come to Houston Colon and Rectal Surgery with concerns about possible rectal or colon cancer, our team will ask you a series of questions relating to your medical history and family history of certain conditions. Once this information has been gathered, one of our board-certified specialists will perform a colonoscopy to detect any benign polyps or cancerous regions. If we notice something abnormal, our surgeon will biopsy the tissue and have the sample tested. We may also run blood tests to check that your kidneys and liver are functioning properly, as well as monitor the presence of the chemical carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), as high levels of this can indicate cancer.
If any signs of rectal cancer are discovered, we will then run imaging tests to determine if the malignant tumors have spread beyond the rectum. Since the vast majority of reported instances of rectal cancer occur in patients who are 50 or older, our North Houston and West Houston, TX offices advise these individuals to receive regular colorectal cancer screenings. This way, your disease can be caught early and treated with minimally invasive techniques.
Thankfully, there are many options for treatment available if you happen to be diagnosed with rectal cancer. Your rectal cancer treatment program will be customized by one of our board-certified specialists to address your individual situation. In many cases, our colorectal surgeons will remove small polyps during your initial colonoscopy. Some more alternatives that could be a part of your care plan are radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and various surgeries for early- and later-stage cancer.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy devices, like x-rays, to externally target malignant cells and kill them. Radiation treatment can also be utilized to decrease the size of a tumor, making it easier for a minimally invasive surgical removal. Radiation therapy can often be paired with chemotherapy as part of a comprehensive cancer management program.
- Chemotherapy involves taking medications to destroy cancer cells or minimize the size of a malignant tumor. Chemotherapy can be paired with radiation therapy or targeted drug therapy to ensure that as many cancer cells as possible are destroyed or affected.
- Targeted drug therapy is usually recommended for patients with a later-stage form of rectal or colon cancer. For this treatment, certain drugs are used to target specific abnormalities within cancer cells and block them. When the abnormalities are blocked, it can cause the cell to die. Targeted drug therapy can be offered in tandem with chemotherapy.
- Early-stage surgical treatments can include removing polyps via a colonoscopy (polypectomy), endoscopic mucosal resection, and minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. An endoscopic mucosal resection requires the removal of a minor portion of the inner lining of the colon. Meanwhile, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery makes tiny incisions in the abdominal wall to extract larger polyps.
- Later-stage surgical treatments could involve the surgical removal of lymph nodes, taking out the cancerous sections of the rectum and resectioning the remaining healthy tissue to the colon and anus, or implementing a stoma from the rectum so stool can collect outside of the body as the area heals following invasive surgery. A colostomy may be a permanent solution if your entire rectum was removed.
Throughout your journey, we will monitor your progress, as well as your body's response to the treatment program and make adjustments as necessary.
RECTAL CANCER TREATMENT
At Houston Colon and Rectal Surgery, our board-certified surgeons have the skills and expertise to treat a range of cancers, including colon, rectal, and anal cancer. While cancer of the rectum was a difficult disease to manage several years ago, advancements in modern techniques and technologies have made it possible for many patients to once again live cancer-free. Rectal cancer is best treated in its earlier stages so individuals over the age of 50 should receive regular colorectal cancer screenings. If you're overdue for a cancer screening, have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, or suspect that something is wrong, please contact one of our North Houston or West Houston, TX offices at your earliest convenience. Our specialists are here to help you.