Rectal cancer - Symptoms and causes (2022)

Overview

Rectal cancer

Rectal cancer - Symptoms and causes (1)

Rectal cancer

The rectum is the last several inches of the large intestine. Rectal cancer starts in the lining of the rectum (rectal mucosa).

Rectal cancer is cancer that begins in the rectum. The rectum is the last several inches of the large intestine. It starts at the end of the final segment of your colon and ends when it reaches the short, narrow passage leading to the anus.

(Video) Risks and symptoms of colorectal cancer - Mayo Clinic

Cancer inside the rectum (rectal cancer) and cancer inside the colon (colon cancer) are often referred to together as "colorectal cancer."

While rectal and colon cancers are similar in many ways, their treatments are quite different. This is mainly because the rectum sits in a tight space, barely separated from other organs and structures. The tight space can make surgery to remove rectal cancer complex.

In the past, long-term survival was uncommon for people with rectal cancer, even after extensive treatment. Thanks to treatment advances over the last few decades, rectal cancer survival rates have greatly improved.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of rectal cancer include:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or more-frequent bowel movements
  • Dark maroon or bright red blood in stool
  • Narrow stool
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness or fatigue

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent symptoms that worry you.

(Video) Colon v. Rectal Cancer: What you need to know

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Causes

Rectal cancer begins when healthy cells in the rectum develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell's DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do.

The changes tell the cells to grow uncontrollably and to continue living after healthy cells would die. The accumulating cells can form a tumor. With time, the cancer cells can grow to invade and destroy healthy tissue nearby. And cancerous cells can break away and travel (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

For most rectal cancers, it's not clear what causes the mutations that cause the cancer to form.

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Inherited gene mutations that increase the risk of colon and rectal cancer

In some families, gene mutations passed from parents to children increase the risk of colorectal cancer. These mutations are involved in only a small percentage of rectal cancers. Some genes linked to colorectal cancer increase the risk of developing the disease, but they don't make it inevitable.

Two well-defined genetic colorectal cancer syndromes are:

  • Lynch syndrome. Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), increases the risk of colon cancer and other cancers. People with Lynch syndrome tend to develop colon cancer before age 50.
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). FAP is a rare disorder that causes thousands of polyps in the lining of your colon and rectum. People with untreated FAP have a significantly increased risk of developing colon or rectal cancer before age 40.

Genetic testing can detect these and other, rarer inherited colorectal cancer syndromes. If you're concerned about your family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about whether your family history suggests you have a risk of these conditions.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase the risk of rectal cancer are the same as those that increase the risk of colon cancer. Colorectal cancer risk factors include:

  • Older age. Colorectal cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but most people with this type of cancer are older than 50. The rates of colorectal cancer in people younger than 50 have been increasing, but doctors aren't sure why.
  • African-American descent. People of African ancestry born in the United States have a greater risk of colorectal cancer than do people of European ancestry.
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. Your risk of colorectal cancer is higher if you've already had rectal cancer, colon cancer or adenomatous polyps.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon and rectum, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Inherited syndromes that increase rectal cancer risk. Genetic syndromes passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon and rectal cancer, including FAP and Lynch syndrome.
  • Family history of colorectal cancer. You're more likely to develop colorectal cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with colon or rectal cancer.
  • Eating a diet low in vegetables. Colorectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in vegetables and high in red meat, particularly when the meat is charred or well done.
  • Too little exercise. If you're inactive, you're more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Diabetes. People with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Obesity. Obese people have an increased risk of colorectal cancer when compared with people considered at a healthy weight.
  • Smoking. People who smoke may have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Drinking alcohol. Regularly drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a week may increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Radiation therapy for previous cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

Prevention

To reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, consider trying to:

  • Talk to your doctor about cancer screening. Colorectal cancer screening reduces the risk of cancer by identifying precancerous polyps in the colon and rectum that could develop into cancer. Ask your doctor when you should begin screening. Most medical organizations recommend starting screening around age 45, or earlier if you have risk factors for colorectal cancer.

    Several screening options exist — each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Talk about your options with your doctor, and together you can decide which tests are appropriate for you.

  • Exercise most days of the week. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. If you've been inactive, start slowly and build up gradually to 30 minutes. Also, talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which may play a role in cancer prevention. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get an array of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you're at a healthy weight, maintain it by exercising regularly and choosing a healthy diet. If you're overweight, work to lose weight slowly by increasing exercise and reducing the number of calories you eat.
  • Stop smoking. If you smoke, stop. If you're having trouble quitting, talk to your doctor about options. Medications and counseling may help.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
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FAQs

Rectal cancer - Symptoms and causes? ›

Signs and symptoms of rectal cancer include:
  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or more-frequent bowel movements.
  • Dark maroon or bright red blood in stool.
  • Narrow stool.
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
May 18, 2022

How would you know if you have rectal cancer? ›

The most common symptoms of rectal cancer are a change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, narrow shaped stools, or blood in your stool. You may also have pelvic or lower abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or feel tired all the time. Other common health problems can cause the same symptoms.

How painful is rectal cancer? ›

Cancer of the rectum should be considered whenever there is rectal bleeding, even if other causes such as hemorrhoids are present. A person may feel as if there is incomplete evacuation. There usually is no pain until later stages of the condition.

Is rectal cancer curable? ›

Rectal cancer is a disease in which cancer cells develop in the rectum. Signs of rectal cancer include diarrhea, constipation or blood in your poop. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Rectal cancer is curable, especially when detected early through screening methods like colonoscopy.

Does rectal cancer spread fast? ›

In most cases, colon and rectal cancers develop slowly over many years. Most of these cancers begin as a growth of tissue called a polyp in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Usually polyps bulge into the colon or rectum; some are flat.

What is early stage rectal cancer? ›

Stage I rectal cancers have grown into deeper layers of the rectal wall but have not spread outside the rectum itself. This stage includes cancers that were part of a polyp. If the polyp is removed completely during colonoscopy, with no cancer in the edges, no other treatment may be needed.

Which is worse colon or rectal cancer? ›

Conclusion. This was a population-based study. The prognosis of rectal cancer was not worse than that of colon cancer. Local advanced colorectal cancer had a poorer prognosis than local regional lymph node metastasis.

How long does rectal cancer take to develop? ›

In two more recent studies, the total median time between symptom onset and diagnosis of rectal cancer was found to be around three months in a group of 180 patients11 and around four months in a sample of 66 patients.

What age does rectal cancer occur? ›

Colorectal cancer can occur in young adults and teenagers, but the majority of colorectal cancers occur in people older than 50. For colon cancer, the average age at the time of diagnosis for men is 68 and for women is 72. For rectal cancer, it is age 63 for both men and women.

How long can you live with rectal cancer? ›

5-year relative survival rates for rectal cancer
SEER stage5-year relative survival rate
Localized90%
Regional73%
Distant17%
All SEER stages combined67%
Mar 1, 2022

Is rectal cancer fatal? ›

For rectal cancer, the overall 5-year survival rate for people is 67%. If the cancer is diagnosed at a localized stage, the survival rate is 90%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 73%.

Where is the first place rectal cancer spreads to? ›

Colorectal cancer usually spreads to the liver. It can also spread to the lungs, the lining of the abdomen, the ovaries, the brain, and other organs. Recent advances in treatment have improved the outlook for people with metastatic rectal cancer, including stage IV cancer.

What are the signs of end stage rectal cancer? ›

Drowsiness, increased sleep, and/or unresponsiveness (caused by changes in the patient's metabolism). Confusion about time, place, and/or identity of loved ones; restlessness; visions of people and places that are not present; pulling at bed linens or clothing (caused in part by changes in the patient's metabolism).

How do you get rectal cancer? ›

You're more likely to develop colorectal cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with colon or rectal cancer. Eating a diet low in vegetables. Colorectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in vegetables and high in red meat, particularly when the meat is charred or well done. Too little exercise.

What does cancerous poop look like? ›

Blood from higher up in the bowel doesn't look bright red. It goes dark red or black and can make your poo look like tar. This type of bleeding can be a sign of cancer higher up the bowel.

What does cancerous poop look like? ›

Blood from higher up in the bowel doesn't look bright red. It goes dark red or black and can make your poo look like tar. This type of bleeding can be a sign of cancer higher up the bowel.

What are the early warning signs of bowel cancer? ›

Here are some things to look out for:
  • Bleeding. Watch out for bright red rectal bleeding or dark, tarry stools, which could indicate the presence of blood.
  • Stomach pain. Look for persistent abdominal pain, discomfort, or bloating.
  • Change in bowel habits. ...
  • Tenesmus. ...
  • Unexplained weight loss. ...
  • Fatigue/weakness.
Jun 13, 2019

How long does rectal cancer take to develop? ›

In two more recent studies, the total median time between symptom onset and diagnosis of rectal cancer was found to be around three months in a group of 180 patients11 and around four months in a sample of 66 patients.

Does rectal cancer feel like hemorrhoids? ›

The main warning signs of anal cancer are rectal pain, itching and bleeding, as well as changes in bowel movements, such as unusually narrow stools. Hemorrhoids, which are painful clusters of inflamed veins in the rectum and anus, can produce many of the same symptoms as anal cancer.

Where do you feel colon pain? ›

Sudden severe abdominal pain, especially in the lower abdomen and on the left side, is common with colon spasms. The pain can vary in its intensity with each spasm. Gas or bloating. These signs may occur any time of the day, regardless of diet.

Can polyps come out in your stool? ›

The spontaneous expulsion per rectum of a polyp is rare, and the literature regarding such cases is limited. There have been several reported cases of rectal expulsion of lipomas [22-29]. With an incidence of 0.035-4.4%, lipomas are the second-most common benign tumors of the colon [22].

When should I be worried about blood when I wipe? ›

If you see blood in stool or on toilet paper after a bowel movement, take note of how much blood there is. If there is a significant amount or continuous bleeding, see your doctor as soon as possible. You should also seek help if your stool appears black, tarry or maroon in color.

What is the most common symptom of bowel cancer? ›

The 3 main symptoms of bowel cancer are: persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit. a persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny.

Can you have bowel cancer for years without knowing? ›

Colon cancer is typically slow-growing, starting as a benign polyp that eventually becomes malignant. This process may occur over many years without producing any symptoms. Once colon cancer has developed, it may still be years before it is detected.

Can a blood test detect bowel cancer? ›

The most common tumor marker for colorectal cancer is carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). Blood tests for this tumor marker can sometimes suggest someone might have colorectal cancer, but they can't be used alone to screen for or diagnose cancer.

Can you survive rectal cancer? ›

For rectal cancer, the overall 5-year survival rate for people is 67%. If the cancer is diagnosed at a localized stage, the survival rate is 90%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 73%.

Which is worse colon or rectal cancer? ›

Conclusion. This was a population-based study. The prognosis of rectal cancer was not worse than that of colon cancer. Local advanced colorectal cancer had a poorer prognosis than local regional lymph node metastasis.

What is the life expectancy of someone with rectal cancer? ›

They can't tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.
...
5-year relative survival rates for rectal cancer.
SEER stage5-year relative survival rate
Localized90%
Regional73%
Distant17%
All SEER stages combined67%
Mar 1, 2022

Is a rectal tumor hard or soft? ›

A hard growth tends to suggest anal cancer while a squishy swelling suggests hemorrhoids. For more information on what they look and feel like, see this resource on hemorrhoids.

What causes rectal cancer, how is it diagnosed, and what are the treatment options? This helpful overview answers these questions and more.

Rectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the rectum, the last six inches of the large intestine.. But rectal cancer is different from cancer that is found higher up in the colon, especially when it comes to treating the disease with surgery.. As the disease progresses, which can take years, symptoms of rectal cancer include:. Colon and rectal cancer screening tests include:. For adults who are at average risk of developing colon or rectal cancer, it is recommended to begin getting screened at age 45.. Illustration by Verywell. The treatment for rectal cancer will depend upon the stage of the disease as well as other factors such as the particular location of the tumor(s) and your general health.

With colorectal cancer increasing, especially in young adults, it's worth knowing the symptoms of rectal cancer, including bloody or thin stools.

Another common symptom of rectal cancer is a change in bowel habits.. Rectal bleeding (either bright red or dark red) is a common symptom of rectal cancer.. While rectal bleeding is a symptom of rectal cancer, it is also associated with less severe health problems, such as internal hemorrhoids and anal fissures .. Another common symptom of rectal cancer is rectal pressure or fullness or the feeling that you have to empty your bowels, even if you've just finished.. Rectal cancer is only one of the possible causes of this symptom, however, so unexplained weight loss always deserves a visit to your healthcare provider.. Symptoms of rectal cancer include blood in the stool, a noticeable change in your bowel habits or shape and size of your stool, and unexplained weight loss.. Having an awareness of the signs and symptoms of rectal cancer is important in order to detect and treat these cancers as early as possible.. Even if you aren't having symptoms of rectal cancer, a healthcare provider can advise you on how and when to be screened for the disease.. These include a fecal immunochemical test and a guaiac-based fecal occult blood test, both of which look for blood in stool; and a stool DNA test, which looks for certain DNA markers that can indicate cancerous changes in cells.. But rectal cancer can also involve symptoms like cramping and abdominal pain, as well as fatigue, which aren't symptoms of hemorrhoids.

Rectal cancer begins in the rectum (the last portion of the large intestine before the anus). It’s the third most common cancer affecting both men and women.

Rectal Cancer: Signs, Stages, Causes & Treatment Rectal cancer develops when cancer cells form in the rectum, which is part of your large intestine .. During Stage I, rectal cancer has grown into the deep layers of the rectal wall but has not spread to nearby areas.. People with Stage I rectal cancer may not experience any warning signs or symptoms.. Colorectal (colon) cancer : This is a broad term describing cancers of the colon, rectum or both.. Age: Like most cancers, the risk of rectal cancer increases with age.. Obesity: People with obesity are more likely to have rectal cancer compared to people who are considered a healthy weight.. If you have Stage 4 metastatic rectal cancer, it means that the cancer has spread beyond the rectum into other areas of the body.. One of the most common rectal cancer treatments, surgery removes cancer cells.. This means that people who have rectal cancer are about 63% as likely to be alive in five years as people who don’t have rectal cancer.. This means that people who have early stage rectal cancer are about 91% as likely to be alive in five years as people who don’t have rectal cancer.. If you’re undergoing rectal cancer treatment, call your healthcare provider right away if you develop:

Learn more about Rectal Cancer causes, sign and symptoms, treatment and diagnosis at FindaTopdoc. Read more information on homeopathic remedies, risks, and prevention.

Rectal cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells lining the interior of rectum, the end segment of your large intestine.. Rectal cancer together with colon cancer is called colorectal cancer.. Rectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps, which can be detected before they turn into rectal cancer or have recently turned so.. You may experience no symptoms of rectal cancer if your cancer is in early stage.. Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC): Also called Lynch syndrome , this condition boosts your chances of developing colon cancer and other cancers.. Colon cancer screenings may help in early detection of colon cancer, thereby improving the chances of recovery.. Treatment options for rectal cancer are selected by analyzing factors like the size, stage and location of your cancer, your overall health, and your preferences.. Small cancers that are limited to the surface of the rectum need no incisions and the surgery is simple while in cases of larger cancers, an entire rectum or a part of it is removed by surgery.. In a specialized type of endoscopic surgery called endomicrosurgery, a powerful microscope rapidly analyzes tissue samples and assures surgery has completely removed the cancer Laparoscopic surgery: This is also called minimally invasive surgery because this surgery creates numerous small incisions in your abdomen instead of making a large incision.. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to destroy cancer cells while radiation therapy uses ionizing radiations like X-rays, to kill cancer cells.. Are over 50, Are African-American, Have had colorectal cancer or polyps , Have inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, Have genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer ( Lynch syndrome ), Have a family history of colon cancer , Follow a low-fiber, high-fat diet, Do not exercise regularly, Have diabetes , Are obese, Smoke and drink, Have received radiation therapy for other cancer.

What is colon cancer and rectal cancer? Learn more about the different types, causes, symptoms, risk factors and prevention from top-ranked cancer center.

Colorectal cancer occurs when something goes wrong with cells in the colon or rectum, causing them to grow out of control.. Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death both in women (after breast and lung cancer) and in men (after lung and prostate cancer).. After a diagnosis of colorectal cancer , doctors will order additional tests to define the cancer stage.. Getting colorectal cancer means abnormal cells in your colon or rectum are growing and dividing at a rapid pace — so fast that cells in your immune system that fight disease cannot keep up.. The cells that form these polyps grow and divide abnormally compared with normal colon cells, but only sometimes become cancer.. About 70% of colorectal cancers arise with no history of cancer in the patient’s family.. Uncontrollable Risks for Colon Cancer Include: Age Personal history of colorectal polyps Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease Family history of colorectal polyps Family history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium or breast Being of African American or Ashkenazi Jewish descent Having an inherited syndrome associated with colorectal cancers, including: Lynch syndrome Familial adenomatous polyposis Turcot syndrome MUTYH-associated polyposis Peutz-Jeghers syndrome. Lynch syndrome is a condition that increases the risk of colorectal and other cancers — including stomach, liver, ovarian, endometrial, brain, skin and small intestine cancers.. If your family history suggests an increased risk of colorectal cancer, City of Hope’s hereditary colorectal cancer multidisciplinary program offers genetic counseling and screening that can identify whether inherited conditions influence your risk — and guide you to the best treatments.. More than most other cancers, colorectal cancer is affected by things you can control, like what you eat and how much you exercise.. And getting screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 (or younger if you have a family history) may help doctors to find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer.

This article looks at different rectal cancer symptoms, warning signs, risk factors, as well as diagnosis and screening. Keep reading to learn more.

Colon cancer and rectal cancer (often referred to together as colorectal cancer) are very similar in their pathophysiology and their signs and symptoms.. Smoking has been linked to both colon and rectal cancer, but the link to rectal cancer is stronger than colon cancer for incidence (your chance of getting it) and mortality (your chance of dying from it).. You may need to begin screening for rectal cancer earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if you have inflammatory bowel disease¹¹ or a genetic syndrome such as Lynch syndrome¹² or familial adenomatous polyposis.¹³ This is usually identified by analyzing a small sample of your feces for blood and/or cancer cells.. However, the presence of CEA should not be used to diagnose rectal cancer, as other conditions can raise it, and not all people with rectal cancer produce CEA.. Rectal cancer (often included under the umbrella term colorectal cancer) is cancer located at the furthest end of the colon.

There is a reduced risk of developing bowel cancer in people who eat lot of fruit and vegetables.The colon and rectum are parts of your bowel.Clinical resource

Colon or rectum cancer is sometimes called colorectal cancer, bowel cancer or cancer of the large intestine.. Bowel cancer can affect any part of the colon or rectum.. However, it most commonly develops in the lower part of the descending colon, the sigmoid colon, or rectum.. When a bowel cancer first develops and is small it usually causes no symptoms.. The most common bowel cancer symptoms to first develop are:. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, various other symptoms can develop.. A colonoscopy is a test in which a long, thin, flexible telescope (a colonoscope) is passed through your anus into your rectum and colon.. If your cancer is at an early stage where surgery could cure it, you should be followed up for three years to make sure there is no spread.. The treatment advised for each case depends on various factors such as the stage of the cancer (how large the cancer is and whether it has spread), and your general health.. Without bowel cancer treatment, a cancerous tumour in the bowel is likely to become larger and spread to other parts of the body.. If the cancer is diagnosed when it has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum, or spread to other parts of the body, there is less chance of a cure.

Rectal tenesmus is that almost constant sensation of wanting to defecate, but not being able to do so. In addition,...

In the case of rectal tenesmus, the urge to defecate persists, even when the bowels are empty.. They are usually associated with inflammatory bowel diseases or motility disorders.. Therefore, rectal tenesmus can occur even when there is no stool in the intestines .. Constipation Straining to defecate Abdominal pain and cramping Painful and difficult bowel movements Scanty or absent stool Presence of mucus in the stool. Symptoms include diarrhea, anal pain, and bleeding with stool.. Infectious colitis and other intestinal infections can be caused by different types of microorganisms (bacteria, parasites, viruses).. The accompanying symptoms vary, but include rectal tenesmus, abdominal pain and cramping, and diarrhea.. In such cases, the symptoms may include rectal tenesmus.. Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition in which there are episodes of diarrhea alternating with constipation, as well as pain (cramping) and rectal tenesmus.. Common symptoms of rectal tenesmus (pain during bowel movements, for example) are sometimes present, as well as lumps, bleeding, and secretions.. They include diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal tenesmus and blood in the stool.. First, the health care professional asks about symptoms, as well as bowel habits (frequency of bowel movements, amount and consistency of stool), including diet and other lifestyle issues.. For certain people, the use of laxatives may be recommended, especially in cases where rectal tenesmus is associated with intestinal motility problems or when constipation is present.

Videos

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4. Rectal Cancer | Q&A
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