Doctor's Notes on Colorectal Cancer in Children
Colorectal cancer is disease where malignant (cancer) cells arise from tissues of the colon and/or rectum and form tumors. The signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer in children usually depend on where the tumor forms. For example, tumors of the rectum or lower colon may cause pain in the abdomen, constipation and/or diarrhea while tumors of the part of the colon on the left side of the body may cause signs and symptoms of a lump in the abdomen, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, blood in the stool and anemia. The child may also feel tired, dizzy and have fast or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and pale skin.
The cause or risk factors for childhood colorectal cancer are often part of an inherited syndrome. Some of the inherited syndromes include familial adenomatous polyposis, Lynch syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, MYH-associated polyposis, Turcot syndrome, Cowden syndrome, Juvenile polyposis syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome.
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Colon CancerThe human colon is a muscular, tube-shaped organ measuring about 4 feet long. It extends from the end of your small bowel to your anus. Most colon cancers start as adenomatous polyps that turn into adenocarcinomas. Colon cancer (bowel cancer) is typically diagnosed through a colonoscopy or other type of endoscopic procedures. Treatment methods include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Colon Cancer and Genetic TestingGenetic tests can determine the risk of colon cancer in people who have a history of the disease in their family; there are specific gene mutations researchers have discovered. Unfortunately, this is only helpful to a minority of patients because familial colon cancer comprises only about five percent of colon cancer cases.
Colon Cancer vs. Hemorrhoid SymptomsColon cancer and hemorrhoids are different problems that affect the colon, rectum, and anus. Colon cancer is caused by abnormal cells in the colon multiplying, creating cancerous tumors. Hemorrhoids are painful swollen blood vessels and inflamed hemorrhoidal tissue. There are three types of hemorrhoids, internal, external, and thrombosed (ruptured). Hemorrhoids can lead to colon cancer. Similar signs and symptoms of colon cancer and hemorrhoids include rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, and feeling as if you haven't finished a bowel movement. Colon cancer symptoms that do not occur with hemorrhoids are unexplained nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Hemorrhoid symptoms that do not occur in colon cancer are pain as the hemorrhoid swells or ruptures, anal itching, and a lump outside of the anus. Colon cancer is a growth of abnormal cells in the colon that continue to multiply, which causes cancerous tumors. Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels and inflammation near the anus. There are three types of hemorrhoids, internal, external, and ruptured. Hemorrhoids can lead to colon cancer. Both colon cancer and hemorrhoids can cause rectal bleeding, blood mixed in the stool, and the feeling that you have not completed a bowel movement. Colon cancer symptoms that are different from hemorrhoids are abdominal pain, unexplained nausea and vomiting, narrow or ribbon-like stools, and constipation.
Colon Cancer vs. Ulcerative ColitisColon cancer or colorectal cancer is cancer that originates from the color or rectum, and is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in the US. Ulcerative colitis or UC is not cancer, but is a disease that causes inflammation, irritation, swelling, and sores on the inner lining of the colon. Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease. Colon cancer and ulcerative colitis have similar signs and symptoms, for example, abdominal/cramping and/or pain, fatigue, anemia due to blood loss, rectal bleeding, frequent loose bowel movements, and fatigue. Ulcerative colitis is a risk factor for getting colon cancer, however, it does not cause cancer. Colon cancer can spread to other organs and areas of the body (metastasize) while ulcerative colitis only occurs in the large intestine. Treatment, cure, and survival rates for colon cancer depends upon the type of cancer, stage, and health of the individual. Ulcerative colitis cannot be cured; however, symptoms and recurrence of the disease can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
Rectal CancerThe rectum is the lower part of the colon that connects the large bowel to the anus. The rectum's primary function is to store formed stool in preparation for evacuation. Rectal cancer symptoms and signs include bleeding, bowel obstruction, weight loss, change in bowel habits, constipation, narrow stools, and pain during bowel movements. Treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Rectal Cancer TreatmentRectal cancer develops from malignant cancer cells in the rectum. Changes in bowel habits or blood in the stool are indicators of bowel cancer. Treatment includes: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapies. Family history, personal habits, age and other factors affect the risk of developing rectal cancer and its prognosis.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.