Rectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the last intestine area called the rectum within the digestive system. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine and is the area where feces are stored and eliminated from the body. Rectal cancer is often considered part of colorectal cancer and most often arises from a type of cell called adenocarcinoma. Risk factors include age, family history, inflammatory bowel diseases (for example, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), high-fat low-fiber diet, smoking, and obesity.
Rectal cancer usually manifests itself with symptoms such as changes in bowel habits, bloody stools, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue. Early diagnosis can increase treatment success, and treatment options may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Regular screenings and healthy lifestyle choices are important in preventing rectal cancer.
What is rectal cancer?
Rectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the last intestine area called the rectum within the digestive system. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine and is the area where feces are temporarily stored and eliminated from the body. Rectal cancer most often arises from a type of cell called adenocarcinoma. This cancer is often considered part of colorectal cancer because the large intestine (colon) and the rectum are located in the same digestive tract and are interconnected.
Early diagnosis and treatment increases the chances of survival for rectal cancer patients. Treatment options may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies, depending on the stage of the cancer, the extent of spread, and the patient’s general health condition. Regular screenings and healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of rectal cancer and help detect the disease early.
Rectal cancer risk factors include age, family history, inflammatory bowel diseases (for example, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), high-fat low-fiber diet, smoking, and obesity. Rectum cancer usually progresses without symptoms, but as it progresses, symptoms such as changes in defecation habits, bloody stools, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue may be observed. Symptoms of rectal cancer may include:
- Change in Defecation Habits: Loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea or changes in defecation frequency may be observed.
- Bloody Defecation: Blood or traces of blood may be seen during or after defecation.
- Abdominal Pain or Bloating: Rectal cancer can cause pain or discomfort in the abdominal area.
- Weakness and Fatigue: Systemic symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss and fatigue may be observed.
- Urinary Tract Problems: Rectal cancer can put pressure on the urinary tract and cause problems with urination.
- Anemia: Anemia may develop due to blood loss.
These symptoms may raise suspicion of rectal cancer, but having these symptoms does not necessarily mean rectal cancer. Any person should contact a healthcare professional if they experience these symptoms. Early diagnosis can increase the chances of cure, and treatment options may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapies.
Does rectal cancer cause pain in the anus?
Rectal cancer can cause pain around the anus because it is located in the rectum area. As cancerous tumors grow, they can put pressure on surrounding tissues and nerves, causing pain in the anal area. This pain usually has a persistent or recurring character and may increase during or after defecation. However, not every rectal cancer patient experiences pain, or the level of pain may vary from person to person.
Symptoms of rectal cancer may also include digestive problems such as pain, difficulty defecating, bloody stools, constipation or diarrhea. If you experience such symptoms or pain in the anal area, it is important to contact a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis is a critical factor in treating rectal cancer.
Where does rectal cancer spread first?
Rectal cancer initially develops in the rectum area and tends to grow in this area. However, as cancer progresses and is left untreated, it can spread to other body parts or organs. Rectal cancer often metastasizes to nearby lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are a transit point that allows cancer cells to spread.
As rectal cancer progresses, it can spread through the intestinal wall and spread to surrounding tissues or organs. Most commonly, it can metastasize to other organs in the abdominal cavity (for example, the liver or lungs). However, this spread may be different in each patient because the behavior and spread pattern of the cancer depends on the individual case. Rectum cancer treatment should be planned taking into account the spread of the cancer.
Who gets rectal cancer?
Rectal cancer usually develops as a result of the interaction of various risk factors. Some factors that increase the risk of rectal cancer may include:
- Age: The risk of rectal cancer increases with age, generally being more common in individuals over the age of 50.
- Family History of Colorectal Cancer: Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer may be at risk of rectal cancer.
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, may increase the risk of rectal cancer.
- High-Fat Low-Fiber Diet: Unhealthy eating habits, especially high-fat and low-fiber diets, may increase the risk of rectal cancer.
- Smoking: Smoking may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of rectal cancer.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes may have a higher risk of rectal cancer.
- Genetic Factors: Some genetic syndromes, especially Lynch syndrome and FAP (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis), which have a family history, may increase the risk of rectal cancer.
Rectal cancer can affect people of all ages and genders, but those with the above risk factors may be at greater risk. Therefore, regular health check-ups and healthy lifestyle choices are important in reducing the risk of rectal cancer.
How do we know if we have rectal cancer?
It is necessary to consult a specialist doctor to diagnose rectal cancer. However, if you think you may have rectal cancer or are experiencing symptoms, you can follow these steps:
- Watch for Symptoms: Symptoms of rectal cancer may include changes in bowel habits, bloody stools, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue. Watch for these symptoms carefully.
- See a Doctor: See a doctor if you have symptoms or concerns. Specialists such as an internist, gastroenterologist, or oncologist can help diagnose and treat rectal cancer.
- Physical Examination: Your doctor may examine the rectum area by performing a physical examination.
- Diagnostic Tests: Various tests can be used to make a diagnosis. These tests may include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, rectal exam, blood tests, biopsy, and imaging studies (for example, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging).
- After Diagnosis: After diagnosis, the stage and spread of the cancer can be determined. Treatment options will be determined depending on the diagnosis.
When rectal cancer is diagnosed early, the chance of treatment increases. If you have symptoms or risk factors, you can help prevent a rectal cancer diagnosis by seeing a doctor and getting regular screening tests.
What are the stages of rectal cancer?
Rectal cancer is classified according to the extent of spread of the cancer through a process called staging. The stages of rectal cancer may be:
- Stage 0 (Tis): Cancer is limited to the inner surface of the rectum and has not spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes. This stage is sometimes referred to as “carcinoma in situ”.
- Stage I: Cancer has progressed from the inner surface of the rectum to its outer layer, but has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage II: Cancer may have spread to the deeper layers of the rectum and surrounding tissues, but it has still not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread to the deeper layers of the rectum and surrounding tissues and has also reached nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread from the outer layer of the rectum to distant sites, distant organs (for example, the liver or lungs), or other lymph nodes.
The stage of rectal cancer can affect treatment options and prognosis. The treatment plan is determined according to the stage of the cancer and the patient’s general health condition. Therefore, when rectal cancer is diagnosed and the stage of the cancer is determined, it is important to cooperate closely with a specialist doctor.
What are the treatments for rectal cancer?
Treatment for rectal cancer may vary depending on the stage of the cancer, the extent of spread, and the patient’s general health condition. Rectal cancer treatment options may include:
- Surgical Intervention: Surgical intervention is frequently used in the treatment of rectal cancer. Surgical removal of part or all of the rectum (rectosectomy) may be necessary to remove the tumor. Lymph nodes are also checked and removed if necessary.
- Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill or shrink cancer cells. Radiotherapy can be used before or after surgery in the treatment of rectal cancer.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It can be used together with radiotherapy in the treatment of rectal cancer, and is sometimes used after surgery.
- Targeted Therapies: Targeted treatments specifically designed for some rectal cancer patients are available. These treatments work by targeting specific targets of cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: In some cases, treatment methods called immunotherapy may be used. These treatments aim to activate the immune system against cancer cells.
Treatment for rectal cancer can often include a combination of these treatment methods. The treatment plan is determined depending on the stage of the cancer and the patient’s general health condition. Patients should collaborate with their oncologists to determine the most appropriate treatment plan. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in the treatment of rectal cancer and can improve patients’ quality of life after treatment.