Cancer that starts in the bowel, colon or rectum is also often referred to as colorectal cancer. This series of cancers often causes a patients bowel habits to change and can cause rectal bleeding. Pain, discomfort and sudden weight loss are also symptoms that patients often experience when diagnosed with these cancers. The National Cancer Society of the United States reports that there are approximately 95,270 new incidents of colon cancer reported each year, as well as approximately 39,220 new incidents of rectal cancer.
They report that around 4.55% of the population will also be diagnosed with some sort of colorectal cancer before death. Furthermore, the chances of survival seem to be relatively high in patients with these types of cancers, but it is still important to realize that cancer has different forms and can be very invasive in certain cases.
Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer
In the case where a patient experience the three most common symptoms of colorectal cancer, a doctor will usually start with a series of tests in order to determine what the cause is and to wipe out the possibility of cancer. The three most common symptoms are reported to be blood in feces, a change in regular bowel habits and abdominal pain. These symptoms can often be caused by other conditions, such as food and hemorrhoids, thus it is essential to perform a series of tests.
The American Cancer Society reports that a medical history of the patient is usually the starting point, followed by a thorough physical exam. During the physical exam, the doctor will feel the abdominal area to determine if there are any masses or organs that are enlarged. A stool sample may also be taken in order to test for occult blood content. Other tests that are involved in the diagnosis of colorectal cancer includes:
- Numerous blood tests to determine blood count, liver enzymes and tumor markers.
- A colonoscopy, which may also be accompanied by a biopsy if any suspicious objects are observed in the rectum or colon.
- Numerous imaging tests, including X-rays and sound wave tests. An ultrasound is also used in some cases.
- An angiography can also be done in order to look at the blood vessels.
Neuroendocrine tumors are abnormal growths that develop within the neuroendocrine system, more specifically in the cells found in this system. The neuroendocrine system contains gland cells and nerves and is responsible for producing hormones, as well as releasing them into your bloodstream. These growths, or tumors, can be either cancerous or non-cancerous. NHS Choices report that these tumors usually grow at a slow pace, but in certain cases their growth can be more rapid. They also report that there are numerous types of neuroendocrine tumors that can develop in the body, which includes:
- Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors – These tumors develop in the pancreas or in the gut.
- Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors – These tumors develop inside the digestive system (stomach, bowel or oesophagus)
- Pulmonary Neuroendocrine Tumors – These tumors develop inside the lungs, but can also develop in the liver, kidneys, testicles, ovaries, bile ducts and gallbladder.
While it is very rare, these types of tumors do affect a number of people from all over the world. The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that approximately 8,000 patients within the United States are diagnosed with gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors each year – where the tumor starts to develop in the intestine, colon, rectum, stomach or appendix. They also report that most cases account for patients aged 60 and older.
Studies Concerning Neuroendocrine Tumors In The Colon And Rectum
Numerous studies have been conducted in order to better understand the symptoms, prevalence, causes and development of neuroendocrine tumors found in the rectum and colon. These studies mainly focus on how the tumors develop, the pace at which they develop and how they are treated by medical professionals.
- In 2006, the Washington University School of Medicine found that neuroendocrine tumors that develop in the rectum and colon mainly arise from decarboxylation cells and amine precursor uptake within the intestine. They also report that, in most cases, these tumors are incidentally discovered during surgery or during diagnostic evaluations. They go on to report that, while a lot of progress has been made, there still remains a lot of research to be done.
- In 2011, the Departments of Osteopathic Medical Education in Pennsylvania reported findings after an elderly woman washes rushed to the hospital following abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea for a 3-day period. They conducted a thorough study following this event and explain that they found large-cell neuroendocrine tumors to be especially rare, but also relatively dangerous. They go on to report that the average survival period for patients diagnosed with this type of tumor is 10.4 months, which is relatively low compared to the 65% 5-year survival rate of standard colon and rectal cancers.
- In 2014, the University of Florida reported findings after an elderly woman was brought to the hospital. The elderly woman had experienced several symptoms including constipation, weight loss and pain in her lower abdominal area for the past month. An obstructing mass was found 6cm away from her anal verge, which was biopsied for further tests. The test results confirmed that the woman had a neuroendocrine tumor. They go on to explain that neuroendocrine tumors only affect 1% of patients diagnosed with rectal and colon cancers, but is significantly more severe than a standard diagnosis of cancer.
While neuroendocrine tumors within the rectum and colon seem to be very rare, they are reported to be more severe than other types of cancer. These tumors cause a considerably larger growth in the digestive tract, which can obstruct the digestive system and lead to more severe symptoms. The overall survival rate and survival period for patients with these tumors are also significantly lower than patients diagnosed with other types of cancerous tumors.