The rectum, also called the rectum, is the part of the large intestine from the tip of the large intestine to the anus. It is about 20cm long and serves to temporarily store feces before they come out. Rectal cancer is a type of colorectal cancer that is a malignant tumor that develops in the rectum. Most rectal cancers are adenocarcinomas occurring in the mucous membrane of the intestine. In addition, they are classified into lymphoma, carcinoid, sarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and metastatic cancer. In addition, the incidence rate is higher in men than in women, and the incidence rate tends to be proportional as age increases, so it is reported that the incidence rate is higher in the age group over 60. It is known that the occurrence of rectal cancer is caused by a combination of factors such as genetic factors, diet, and lifestyle. In particular, like colorectal cancer, diet is the biggest factor in causing the onset of colorectal cancer, and it is known that excessive intake of animal fats and meats, and insufficient intake of fiber and vitamins have a significant influence on the occurrence. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are also known to cause the occurrence, and lack of physical activity, obesity, smoking, and excessive drinking are also known as factors that greatly affect the occurrence. In the past, rectal cancer mainly occurred in the elderly, but in recent years, the incidence has increased in the younger age group due to various environmental factors such as westernized eating habits, smoking, drinking, and irregular lifestyles, and the number is increasing every year. It is said to be a growing trend. Now, let’s learn about the main symptoms that appear when rectal cancer occurs, and various information related to treatment and prevention.
The main symptoms of rectal cancer
In the early stages of rectal cancer, no symptoms appear, and as the cancer progresses, bloody stools mixed with blood and thin stools are common. Also, due to a change in bowel habits, it may be difficult to hold a bowel movement, or the feeling of wanting to have a bowel movement may appear continuously after a bowel movement. This change in bowel habits may cause problems such as constipation, diarrhea, and fecal incontinence, and may be accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal discomfort and abdominal pain due to gas or cramping. In addition, if the cancer progresses, it can metastasize to the bladder around the rectum, causing pain in the lower abdomen. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and palpable lumps in the abdomen. Since rectal cancer rarely shows symptoms in the early stages, it is often discovered incidentally through a health check-up. When the various symptoms mentioned above appear, it can be said that the cancer is already advanced to some extent. If polyps are found at the adenoma stage through screening and removed with a colonoscopy, more than 90% can be cured. Therefore, when you see bloody stools, the thickness of the stools becomes thinner, or the change in bowel habits that is different from the previous one continues, it is important to receive a diagnosis and examination from a specialist through a visit. It is also very important to have a colonoscopy every 5 to 10 years after age 45, even if there are no symptoms. In particular, since genetic factors also have a great influence on the occurrence of rectal cancer, it is essential to receive regular colonoscopy if any of your immediate family members have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or colorectal polyp.
Rectal cancer treatment and prevention
1. Diagnosis and treatment
To diagnose rectal cancer, a biopsy of the suspected area through endoscopy and a rectal examination are performed to diagnose a tumor in the rectal area. In addition, if rectal cancer is confirmed, tests such as CT, MRI, and PET will be performed to determine the size of the cancer and whether it has spread to nearby organs, liver, or lymph nodes. After that, depending on the stage according to the diagnosis result, various treatment methods such as endoscopic resection, surgical operation, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are applied to proceed. In addition, since the rectum is close to other organs and there is no peritoneum, even after treatment is finished, cancer cells infiltrate into surrounding organs and local recurrence is high. It is said that 70% of recurrences occur within 24 months after surgery, and more than 90% of recurrences occur within 3 to 5 years after surgery. Therefore, it can be said that regular follow-up in preparation for recurrence is very important.
2. Controlling animal fat and meat intake
Excessive intake of animal fats and meat not only increases the secretion of bile acids that stimulate the colon mucosa, but also turns into carcinogens by intestinal bacteria and acts as a factor that causes colonic epithelial cells to grow abnormally. Therefore, it is recommended to reduce excessive consumption of animal fats and meat. In addition, excessive consumption of trans fats generated from high-temperature oil is also known to be associated with the occurrence of rectal cancer, so it is recommended to reduce excessive intake of fried foods, various processed foods, and instant foods containing trans fats.
3. Eat fiber-rich vegetables and fruits
Lack of dietary fiber intake is also known to be strongly associated with the development of rectal cancer. In addition to diluting the contents of the large intestine, dietary fiber plays an important role in reducing the incidence of rectal cancer because it reduces the passage of time through the intestine and increases the volume of feces. Therefore, it is very important to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and grains rich in dietary fiber. In addition to dietary fiber, intake of sufficient amount of calcium is also important for the prevention of rectal cancer. Calcium binds to fatty acids and bile acids and is known to prevent harmful effects on colonic epithelial cells by this action, so eating foods rich in calcium is also a very important preventive habit.
4. Regular exercise
Regular exercise is also important in preventing rectal cancer. It is important to exercise regularly because it is known that physical activity and exercise promote intestinal peristalsis to reduce the time for stool to pass through the intestine and minimize contact of carcinogens in the stool with the intestinal mucosa. In particular, rectal cancer is known to have a high risk of developing in occupational groups with less movement and a lot of sedentary time. In addition, excessive drinking habits and smoking are also included in the risk group that increases the risk of developing rectal cancer, so it is recommended to refrain from it.
We learned about various symptoms, treatment, and prevention of rectal cancer. I hope that the various information introduced will be helpful and I hope you have a healthy and happy day today.