Rectal Cancer

The rectum is a part of the digestive system of the body. Digestive system which comprises of different body parts and organs extract its nutrients from food and help excrete waste materials from the body. The rectum and anal canal is about 6-8 inches long and it makes up the last part of the large intestine. Rectal cancer can be defined as an abnormal growth of cells in the lower part of the colon that connects the anus to the large bowel. This abnormal growth can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

Rectal cancer has significantly increased over the years with a lot of research publications to back this up.

Risk factors

  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child).
  • Personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, or crohn’s disease
  • Inherited gene mutations that increases the chances of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Old age
  • Exposure to radiation from previous cancer treatment
  • Poory managed type 2 diabetes
  • Sedentary life style
  • Dietary factors like low vegetable diet and high red meat diet.

Signs and Symtoms

  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) or mucus in the stool.
  • A change in bowel pattern
    • Diarrhea.
    • Constipation.
    • Feeling of incomplete bowel movement
    • Pain during bowel movement
    • Narrow stools shape or unusual shapes of stool
  • General abdominal discomfort like frequent gas, pains, belching, bloating, fullness, or cramps.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia resulting from iron deficiency

Stages of Rectal Cancer

Cancer can metastasize through tissues, lymphatic system, the blood stream to reah other pars of the body no mate where it started from. Rectal cancer is categorized according to stages , this is to indicate the cancer progression and also to decide treatment regimen.

The stages are:

  • Stage 0

At this stage, only the innermost layer of the rectum wall contains abnormal cells.

  • The Stage 1

The Cancerous cells have spread past the innermost layer of the rectum wall, but not to lymph nodes.

  • Stage 2

This is often divided into two sub stages: stage 2A and stage 2B

The Stage 2A – Cancer cells have spread into or through the outer muscle layer of the rectum wall, but not to lymph nodes.

The stage 2B – The cancer cells have spread into the abdominal lining.

  • Stage 3

At this stage, Cancer cells have spread through the outermost muscle layer of the rectum and/ to one or more lymph nodes.

However, Stage 3 is often broken down into sub stages 3A, 3B, and 3C based on the amount of lymph tissue affected.

  • Stage 4

Cancer cells have spread to other organs or tissues like the liver or lungs.


  • Physical examination
  • Colonscopy
  • Blood test to check for high level of carcinobryonic antigen
  • Endorectal ultrasound
  • Xrays
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Computed Tomography (CT)


Generally, it is recommended to have a colorectal cancer screening test at age 50. More-frequent or earlier screening may be recommended if there are identified risk factors, such as a family history of colon or rectal cancer. Other preventive measures are:

  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet like lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight

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