Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer affecting the colon and/or the rectum. It is currently the third most common type of cancer in the Philippines after breast and lung cancer. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Most colorectal cancers start as polyps. These polyps can change into cancer over time (usually many years), but not all polyps become cancer. Once they become cancerous, they can then travel to nearby lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body. Various factors can increase the risk for developing colorectal cancer, including: • Increasing age, especially after age 50 • Being overweight or obese • Lack of physical activity • Certain types of diets, especially red meat and processed meat • Cigarette smoking • Heavy alcohol drinking • History of colorectal polyps or cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or inherited syndromes like Lynch syndrome • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps

Individuals with colorectal cancer can have no symptoms at all, during early stages of the disease. When symptoms do appear, it’s often only after the cancer has already grown or spread. Symptoms include: • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so • Rectal bleeding without soreness or discomfort at the area around the anus • Dark stools, or blood in the stool • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain • Weakness and fatigue • Unintended weight loss While in many cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer, it’s still important to go to the doctor so the cause can be found and treated if needed.

One way to test for colorectal cancer is to look for occult (hidden) blood in the stool. If the test results are positive (that is, if hidden blood is detected), a colonoscopy will be needed to investigate further. Although blood in the stool can be from cancers or polyps, it can also have other causes, such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, or other conditions. Patients with colorectal cancer are managed depending on the size and extent of the cancer, among other factors. Types of treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or newer therapies like targeted therapy or immunotherapy.

To help reduce the risk for developing colorectal cancer, an individual may: • achieve and maintain a healthy body weight • have a healthy diet (e.g. nutrient-dense foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains) • avoid red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods, and refined grains • avoid alcohol if possible; or limit consumption to ≤ 1 drink/day for women and ≤ 2 drinks/day for men • take aspirin or other medications which can lower the risk for colorectal cancer (upon the advice of a doctor) • get screened for colorectal polyps and have them removed if possible
Last Updated: February 21, 2024