Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they're often referred to as colorectal cancers. Most cases of colon cancer being as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers.

  • About 136,000 people are diagnosed each year with colorectal cancer in the U.S.
  • Each year about 50,300 people are predicted to die of the disease.
  • In both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are highest in African American men and women.
  • Incidence and mortality rates among other major racial/ethnic groups are lower than those among whites.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer:

  • Abdominal distension without weight gain
  • Abdominal pain, rare in colon cancer
  • Unexplained, persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Change in frequency or character of bowel movements

Treatment Options:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

How is colorectal cancer related to your mouth?

A strain of mouth bacteria that causes gum disease may play a significant role in colorectal cancer, according to two independent studies-one from Harvard, the other from Case Western Reserve University-published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Although Fusobacteria start off in the mouth and are frequently associated with gum disease, they can migrate through blood vessels to far reaches of the intestinal tract, including the colon. However, none of these earlier investigations had observed the bacteria within the actual tumors. This led investigators at Harvard to look at earlier stages of colon cancer to see if this discrepancy was merely an issue of timing. They found fresh evidence that Fusobacteria are intimately nestled within tumors of the colon.

Further supporting this connection, the team found that Fusobacteria elevate the generation of tumors in a mutant mouse strain that is prone to developing intestinal cancer. Infection with these microbes attracts a particular brand of immune cell - myeloid cells -which the authors found stimulates inflammatory responses that can cause cancer.


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