The rectum is the terminal part of the large intestine that connects it to the anus. Rectal cancer occurs when cells in the epithelium lining of the rectum start proliferating and form a malignant tumour. These tumours can begin as a small polyp, which allows for early detection through regular cancer screening, such as colonoscopy.
Treatment advances in surgery, chemotherapy, Radiation therapy and targeted therapy given in various in various combinatios; rectal cancer survival rates have greatly improved.
What are the symptoms of rectal cancer?
- Change in bowel habits
- Chronic constipation
- Diarrhoea sometime
- Blood per rectum
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Sudden weight loss
What are the risk factors associated with rectal cancer?
While the exact causes of rectal cancer are unknown, few gene mutations passed from parents to children increase the risk of developing rectal cancer. Other factors that increase the risk of rectal cancer are:
- Ageing as people over 50 are more prone to rectal cancer than younger people.
- Colon polyps, which can turn cancerous over time.
- Inflammatory bowel syndromes, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- A low fibre diet can cause chronic constipation and rectal damage.
- Smoking and heavy drinking are associated with most cases of rectal cancer.
- Obesity as obese people are more at risk of colorectal cancer when compared with people considered at a healthy weight.
- A family history of genetic syndromes like FAP and Lynch syndrome can significantly increase the risk of rectal cancer.
- Red Meat
To start the diagnosis, our doctors will check the patient’s medical history and perform a physical exam to assess the symptoms. If they suspect rectal cancer, they will perform additional tests. These tests may include:
- Faecal tests in which they will check for blood and other cancer markers in the stool.
- Blood tests to identify the cause of the symptoms and rule out other disorders.
- Sigmoidoscopy to check the colon for any abnormal growth and damage.
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)to test the blood for specific cancer markers.
- MRI and CT scan to create a detailed image of the rectum and identify the tumours.
- Colonoscopy to examine the inside of the colon and rectum by using a colonoscope that has a tiny camera attached to it.
A biopsy to take a tissue sample from the polyps in the rectum and test it for cancerous cells. Our doctors can either use a surgical tool or a colonoscopy to take a tissue sample for further tests and analysis.
Treatment for rectal cancer often requires a combination of therapies, which can include:
Surgery: Depending on how far cancer has spread, our surgeon will use various methods to remove the tumour along with the surrounding tissues to prevent a recurrence. These methods can include:
- Removal of cancers from inside the rectum: Our surgeons will only cut away the tumour and some surrounding tissues inside the rectum through a colonoscopy.
- Removal of the rectum: To remove larger tumours, our doctor will surgically remove the rectum and the lymph nodes while preserving the anus intact.
- Removal of the rectum and anus: To cure rectal cancers near the anus, our surgeon performs abdominoperineal resection (APR) to remove the rectum, anus and nearby tissues.
Chemotherapy: Our doctors administer a group of anticancer drugs to stop cancer from recurrence. Cancer cells absorb the drugs faster than normal cells, thus slowing their growth. Chemotherapy can be given in various forms like tablets, capsules, injection and through peripheral lines or central lines. Often chemotherapy can be combined with targeted therapy in advanced stages.