Bowel Cancer: Signs, Symptoms and Stages

Bowel Cancer: Signs, Symptoms and Stages

The intestine is an organ located in the abdominal cavity that performs digestive and excretory functions. On the anatomical basis of the intestine is divided into two segments: colon and small intestine.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, the intestine is the second organ in the human body, which is most often affected by cancer. The first are lungs. Every year in the world about 600 thousand cases of intestinal cancer are recorded. This figure is even more impressive, given the fact that the detection of this pathology, regardless of the stage of development, covers no more than 70 percent of cases of the disease. That is, we are talking about a million people a year, the intestines of which are annually affected by cancer tumors. In modern medical terminology, intestinal cancer is referred to as colorectal cancer (CRC).

The prerequisites for such a wide spread of this pathology lie in the risk factors for its development. The following main causes of intestinal cancer are distinguished:

  • excessive enthusiasm for diets, because of which the diet is saturated with solid animal fats and depleted in fiber;
  • overweight;
  • bad habits, including smoking and alcohol abuse;
  • intestinal pathologies of inflammatory nature.

In addition, recent studies in this direction have shown that people who often or long took antibiotic drugs in their youth have a tendency to develop colorectal cancer. A survey of more than 15 thousand volunteers showed that between 39 and 69 percent of those who took antibiotics for more than two months in a row are at risk.

Stages of intestinal cancer

The most common and widely used in our country classification of the stages of the development of colorectal cancer is the classification according to the TNM method. Its name contains the caps of the three cancer characteristics: tumor, lymph node and metastasis. Consider this classification in the form of a table:

Stage Designation by the TNM method Description
First T1N0M0 The initial stage of the development of colorectal cancer is practically not manifested by symptoms or it shows signs of minor intoxication.
Clinically, this stage is determined by the presence of a small, dense formation that is located either on the mucous membrane or in the submucosal layer. This formation is referred to as T1. At the same time, lymph nodes at this stage are not yet involved in the oncological process (N0), metastasis is not observed (M0).
Second T2N1M0 or T3N0M0 The second stage of CRC development is distinguished by the size of the tumor. It can reach one third (T2) or half (T3) of the lumen diameter of the affected organ: small or large intestine. In the case of carcinoma, the size of which is close to the lower border, in the second stage some lesions of the lymph nodes closest in location to the tumor (N1) can also be observed. However, there is no metastasis at this stage (M0).
Third T1-4N0-3M0 The third stage has a fairly wide range of characteristics for two diagnostic manifestations. The size of the tumor at this stage can vary from a third of the intestinal lumen to its complete girdling (T1-4), lymph nodes may not be affected at all, or they can be spread along most large vessels (N0-3). However, there is no metastasis in the third stage (M0).
Fourth T1-4N1-3M1 A critical stage in the development of colorectal cancer. Its main clinical characteristic is the presence of metastases, most often in the liver (M1). At the same time, the size of the tumor and the degree of damage to the lymph nodes in determining this stage does not matter. The development of metastasis is the fourth stage of CRC.

Symptoms and signs of bowel cancer

Like most oncological diseases, CRC is often manifested by distinct symptoms in the second-third or only in the fourth stage. In addition, there are practically no vivid manifestations of this pathology and its people are often confused with quite banal problems of the digestive system: poisoning, overeating, poor pickling.

Therefore, in the case of any unusual manifestations of the intestine, it is necessary to consult with a specialist and try in no way to resort to self-treatment, even the most simple, it would seem, problems. Since the timely diagnosis of bowel cancer is the basis of its effective treatment.

Symptoms characteristic for colorectal cancer are considered by separate groups: for colon and small intestine cancers, as well as for men and women, since in all cases the manifestations of this pathology are quite significant differences.

Colon Cancer Symptoms

This form of colorectal cancer develops in the early stages almost asymptomatic, but after a certain time it begins to manifest itself with fairly obvious symptoms. In this case, it is considered that colon cancer is quite easily diagnosed at the first manifestations only on the basis of studying the patient’s history and analyzing his complaints. This oncology is accompanied by the following features:

  • aching pain in the abdomen, which tends to increase in certain body positions;
  • digestive problems, most commonly abdominal distention, chronic stool disorder, intestinal obstruction, chronic nausea and vomiting;
  • ascites or abdominal dropsy – a pathology characterized by accumulation in the abdominal cavity of an abnormal volume of fluid, sometimes up to 20 liters;
  • intra-abdominal hypertension.

Symptoms of small bowel cancer

This subspecies of intestinal oncology is characterized by higher complexity of treatment, especially if it is detected in the later stages. Therefore, in the case of cancer of the small intestine, it is extremely important to be attentive to the following manifestations of the body, which can witness the development of this pathology:

  • discoloration of fecal masses in the direction of dark tones, as well as the presence of blood in them;
  • acute bouts of gastralgia – abdominal pain cramping character;
  • sudden intolerance to certain foods;
  • copper taste in the mouth;
  • Traditional manifestations of etching problems: vomiting, nausea, bitterness in the mouth.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer in women

A characteristic feature of the course of CRC in women is the involvement in the oncological process of the bladder. This contributes to the development of rectovaginal fistula – a straight passage connecting the rectum and vagina. This formation is manifested by a partial discharge through the vagina of gases and feces. This symptom is the most specific manifestation of colorectal cancer in women.

In addition to rectovaginal fistula, bowel cancer in women can manifest the following symptoms:

  • disruptions in the menstrual cycle,
  • blood in the urine,
  • drastic weight loss
  • unmotivated intolerance to fried and fatty foods.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer in men

In men, the course of intestinal cancer is often accompanied by a lesion of the prostate gland, which is manifested by specific symptoms. First of all, urination problems such as painful sensations, false desires, unnatural color of urine should be a message to an unscheduled physical examination. In addition, CRC in men is often accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • long low-grade temperature,
  • reduced sexual desire,
  • abdominal pains and classical manifestations of etching problems.

With regard to the symptoms of intestinal cancer, characteristic of all its types and for all categories of patients, among them the most common are:

  • reduced working capacity and great fatigue with the same amount of work;
  • An ongoing feeling of general weakness, at which subfebrile temperature is also quite often observed;
  • unmotivated weight loss of progressive nature;
  • visual change of fecal masses: the prevalence of dark colors and the presence of blotches of blood or mucus;
  • pale skin and mucous membranes.

It is worth remembering that none of these symptoms is a specific indicator of CRC. Moreover, this oncology simply does not have such manifestations. But noticing the changes described above in your body and, especially, a combination of several of them, you need to pay close attention to your health in order not to miss the development of serious pathology.

Life expectancy after bowel cancer treatment

Finally, we will consider another issue related to colorectal cancer – the life expectancy of patients whose treatment gave a positive result. The numbers here will be based on statistical studies that cover a fairly large number of patients. The so-called “five-year survival rate” is a concept used in official medicine. By it is meant the number of patients who, after successful therapy, have lived for more than five years. The data from this study is directly dependent on the stage of development at which bowel cancer was diagnosed and treatment started.

Bowel Cancer Stage Percentage of “five-year survival”
First 95%
Second 75%
Third 50%
Fourth 5%

It should be understood that all of this is very average indicators, which additionally depend on a number of related factors:

  • patient’s age,
  • the state of his immune system,
  • concomitant pathologies.

And the main thing to remember is that the likelihood of completely overcoming bowel cancer exists regardless of the stage at which it was diagnosed. At the same time, time is both a partner and an enemy of the patient. If it is used rationally, the result of therapy is likely to be positive.

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