Rectal Polyps

Rectal cancer develops in the tissues of the rectum, which is the final six inches of colon that leads to the anus. Most cases of rectal cancer begin as small, benign clusters of cells (called polyps) on the lining of the rectum. Certain types of polyps, called adenomas, can become malignant. Screening to locate and remove precancerous polyps can prevent rectal cancer from developing, so it is recommended that polyps be removed at an early stage in their growth.

Risk Factors for Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer is more common in people older than 40. Additional risk factors for rectal cancer include the following:
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Patient history of polyps
  • Patient history of other cancer
Hereditary conditions such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer also put people at higher risk for rectal cancer.

Symptoms of Rectal Cancer

Initially, people with rectal cancer are often asymptomatic. As the cancer progresses, they may have one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Change in bowel habits or stool consistency
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • Feeling that the bowel is not emptying completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
Symptoms also include unexplained weight loss or a change in appetite.

Diagnosis of Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer is diagnosed through a physical examination, a review of symptoms, and a review of the medical history of the patient and family. Additional diagnostic tests include the following:
  • Digital rectal examination
  • Barium enema
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Colonoscopy
  • Carcinoembryonic antigen assay
A sample of rectal tissue may be taken, and sent to a lab for analysis. If rectal cancer is diagnosed, X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans may be performed to determine if cancer cells have spread within the rectum or to other parts of the body.

Treatment of Rectal Cancer

Surgery is the most common form of treatment for rectal cancer at any stage of progression. There are several types of surgery used to excise or destroy the diseased tissue and a surrounding margin. For some patients, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or biological therapy may be performed instead of, or in addition to, surgery.

Prevention of Rectal Cancer

There are many steps that can be taken to lower the risk of developing rectal cancer. Following a healthy low-fat diet that is high in fiber and antioxidants, drinking alcohol in moderation, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and refraining from smoking all decrease the chance of developing rectal cancer. Regular colonoscopies are recommended for those who meet the following criteria:
  • Are older than 50
  • Are African-American and older than 45
  • High-risk individuals
Colonoscopies are important because they can detect prostate cancer in its early stages, and remove suspicious rectal polyps before they become malignant.

SKYPE with a Surgeon​

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