Cancer » Rectal Cancer
Rectal cancer is one of the common types of cancers originating in the bowels. Rectum is located in the lower area of colon and joins anus to the larger bowel. The main function of the rectum is to store the stool ready to be drained out of the body. Rectum comprises of three important layers as mesorectum, mucosa and muscularis propria. Mesorectum is the outermost layer of the rectum while the mucosa and muscularis propria are the inner and middle layers, respectively.
Rectal cancer in detail
More than 90% cases of the cancer in the rectum originate in the innermost layer called mucosa and is also known as adenocarcinoma. Some may also develop in the middle and outer layers but the cases are extremely rare. The disease is not limited to any particular sex and may occur in men and women equally. Cancer in the rectum must be taken very seriously as rectum is an important part of the digestive system of human body.
Rectal cancer develops in the body when the cancerous or malignant cells attack the healthy tissues and cells present in the mucosa. Mucosa is a vital layer of rectum as it comprises of glands secreting mucus. Primary role of the mucus is to ensure smooth passage of stools. Hence, presence of cancerous or malignant cells in the mucosa can severely affect the overall digestive system.
The cancerous cells invade and destroy the tissues present on the linings of mucosa and restrict them from carrying out their functions normally. Tissues play a vital role in the overall cell growth process as they are the main suppliers of blood, oxygen and other important resources to the cells. Also, the tissues ensure proper generation of antibodies to fight infections. Inefficient functioning of tissues leads to lack of sufficient resources to cells and makes them impatient and abnormal. The cancerous cells take advantage of this condition and force such cells to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner. Also, the malignant cells stop the normal old cells from dying in the regular manner.
The condition created by tumor cells gives rise to an excess number of unnecessary cells in the infected area. These excessive cells accumulate in an area to form a sort of lump known as tumor. In the initial stages, the tumors are usually non-cancerous or benign. These benign tumors are not as destructive as the cancerous ones and exhibit rare chances to metastasize. It is easy to control the benign tumors as they grow gradually and spread slowly. Also, they are fully curable and do not have any chances of redevelopment.
Behavior of cancerous cells is exactly opposite to that of the benign ones. Cancerous tumors highly metastasize and can recur even if treated in the past. It is difficult to eliminate these tumors by surgery and need some strong line of treatment like chemical therapy or treatment by radiations. Biopsy and X-rays are some of the basic techniques to detect tumors and their intensity. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and positron emission tomography (PET) test are also available worldwide to diagnose tumors. Computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound and endoscopy can also be done in the cases where the tumor has already started to metastasize.
Tumors usually spread to other areas of the body through the bloodstream or lymph node. They also form separate tumors in the areas they infect and thus, increase the intensity of the disease rapidly. Benign or non-cancerous tumors can also be treated as pre-cancerous tumors and must be considered seriously. They can be the primary target of the malignant cells and may convert them from the benign to cancerous ones.
How to tackle rectal cancer?
Cancer in the rectum is completely treatable if detected in time and cured in the right manner. In most of the cases, where the cancer is in the initial period, surgery is the most recommended line of treatment as it helps in removing the tumor from the body minimizing its chances to grow again. Therapy by radiation and chemicals is normally undertaken if the cancer is not curable by surgery and has reached an advanced stage.
Cancer in the rectum occurs mostly in people above 40 years of age. Also, the chances of being prone to the disease increase with age. Family history of the cancer is another major disadvantage to a person. Personal or family history of the colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer) or the colon cancer can put a person at risk of being infected by the cancer in the rectum.
Smoking and excess alcohol consumption damages your body internally and makes you more susceptible to the disease. Tobacco chewing is not a direct cause of the disease but must be avoided to prevent damage to body tissues. Presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) can severely damage a person's immune system and make him more vulnerable to cancerous attack. Obesity and diet high in red meat should be avoided. You should eat salads and vegetables regularly along with frequent consumption of fruits. Strong immune system helps in proper generation of antibodies and shields you from various infections.
Digital rectal exam (DRE), colonoscopy and proctoscopy are some important tests to examine rectum. Blood in the stool, unusual bowel movement and constipation that doesn't get cured by normal medication are some of the important indications of cell abnormality in the rectum. Abdominal pains or gas in the abdomen should be treated urgently. Diarrhea and unexpected loss of weight must be consulted with a physician. Some may also experience uneasiness or pains in the passage of stools.
Rectal cancer must be detected in the early stages to take advantage of various treatments available worldwide. The kind of tests to be undergone may vary from person to person and depend on the nature and intensity of the malignant tumors. It is necessary to consult a cancer specialist before opting for any kind of treatment. The treatments have high side effects and the damage is irreversible.