Colorectal cancer refers to the cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. It is the most common type of cancer that affects people over the age of 60 years.

Cancer symbol in palms

The three main symptoms of colorectal cancer are:

  1. Persistent blood in the stools – occurs for no obvious reasons and associated with a change in the bowel habit
  2. Persistent change in the bowel habit – which means going too often with looser stools.
  3. Persistent lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort – which is usually caused by eating and might be associated with loss of appetite or significant weight loss.

Although the exact causes of colorectal cancer are unknown, some factors are linked to increase the risk of getting it.  These include: 

  • Age – 90% of the colorectal cancer cases occur in people aged 60 or over.
  • Diet – a diet that is low in fiber or high in processed meat increases the risk.
  • Weight – overweight or obese people are more affected than others
  • Exercise – being inactive enhances the risk
  • Alcohol intake and smoking – high alcohol intake and smoking increases the chances
  • Family history – people with a close relative who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer may be at greater risk of developing it. 

Treatment for this cancer is usually done using a combination of methods depending on its location in the bowel and how far it has advanced.  These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological treatments.