Colorectal and Esophageal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is malignant cells found in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which is part of the digestive system. Because colon cancer and rectal cancers have many features in common, they are sometimes referred to together as colorectal cancer. Cancerous tumors found in the colon or rectum also may spread to other parts of the body.
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 140,000 colorectal cancer cases and about 50,000 deaths from colorectal cancer occur each year. The number of deaths due to colorectal cancer has decreased, attributed to increased screening and polyp removal and to improvements in cancer treatment.
Are you at risk? Take the Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment.
What are the statistics for colorectal cancer?
Below are the colorectal cancer screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society for early detection. Consult with your primary care physician or a gastroenterologist to determine if you should have a colorectal cancer screening:
Screening guidelines for colorectal cancer
Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of the examination schedules below:
People with any of the following colorectal cancer risk factors should begin screening procedures at an earlier age and/or be screened more often:
- Strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps in a first-degree relative, especially in a parent or sibling before the age of 45 or in two first-degree relatives of any age
- Family with hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
- Personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
Esophageal cancer is cancer that develops in the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. The esophagus, located just behind the trachea, is about 10 to 13 inches in length and allows food to enter the stomach for digestion. The wall of the esophagus is made up of several layers and cancers generally start from the inner layer and grow out.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 18,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year, resulting in more than 15,000 deaths.
What causes esophageal cancer?
No one knows exactly what causes esophageal cancer. At the top of the esophagus is a muscle, called a sphincter, that releases to let food or liquid go through. The lower part of the esophagus is connected to the stomach. Another sphincter muscle is located at this connection that opens to allow the food to enter the stomach. This muscle also works to keep food and juices in the stomach from backing into the esophagus. When these juices do back up, reflux, commonly known as heartburn, occurs.
Long-term reflux can change the cells in the lower end of the esophagus. This condition is known as Barrett's esophagus. If these cells are not treated, they are at much higher risk of developing into cancer cells.
Learn more about esophageal cancer now.