What is Rectal Cancer?

The rectum makes up the last section of the large intestine. It is about half a foot or 6 inches in length.

Rectal cancer is caused by abnormal cells developing in the rectum and growing out of control. Colorectal cancer is the third most common kind of cancer found in both women and men, and 5% of the American population will get some form of colorectal cancer at some point in their lives.

What Are Signs and Symptoms of Rectal Cancer?

In many cases, rectal cancers do not cause any symptoms at all. In fact, they are usually caught when your doctor is conducting a routine screening.

That said, here are signs and symptoms you can look for, independent of your doctor:

  • Altered bowel activity and habits
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • Blood in your stool
    • Stools that have a narrower thickness
  • Pain in your pelvis or lower belly
  • Tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss

You should also know that, while hemorrhoids can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as rectal cancer, hemorrhoids do not actually cause cancer themselves.

Either way, should you notice some of the above issues, you should make an appointment with your doctor right away—just to be sure.

How is Rectal Cancer Treated?

Some rectal cancers can be completely cured with surgery. Your doctor might also treat with chemotherapy or get radiation before or after the surgery, depending on how severe the cancer is and its location.