Rectal cancer starts in the rectum i.e. the lower most part of the intestines. It affects both men and women, and people aged 50 or above comprise the high-risk group for this kind of cancer.
Rectal cancer develops over the years. Though no particular cause can be singled out, most rectal cancers begin as non-cancerous polyps, which are an overgrowth of tissue in the lining of the rectum. Statistics show that more than 95% of rectal cancer are adenocarcinomas (cancer that starts in the lining of glands) and approximately 90% of them develop from polyps. Other risk factors include age (50 and above), family history, high-fat diet, smoking, intake of alcohol, lack of physical exercise, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Early stages of rectal cancer show little or no symptoms. Symptoms include bleeding from the rectum, change in bowel movement, abdominal pain or discomfort, small diameter stool, fatigue, dizziness, and weight loss.
The prognosis and treatment for rectal cancer depend on the size, location, and stage of cancer. Rectal cancer treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy or some combination of all of these, based on the extent of cancer.