Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a term that refers to colon and rectal cancers collectively. Cancer of the colon (large intestine) is known as colon cancer. Cancer affecting the last few inches of the colon (rectum) is known as rectal cancer. Generally, colon cancers start with benign (noncancerous) lumps, called adenomatous polyps. A percentage of those benign polyps become cancerous over time.

  • 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.
  • The third most common cause of cancer death, and third most common type of cancer diagnosed in both men and women is colorectal cancer.
  • 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
  • Frequent vomiting or nausea of unknown cause
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Changing nature or frequency of bowel movements

Treatment Options:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

How is colorectal cancer related to your mouth?

A specific type of oral bacteria (fusobacteria), which is a cause of periodontal disease, is believed to play an important role in colorectal cancers. Two separate research studies published in Cell Host & Microbe journal, arrived at this same conclusion. One was conducted by Case Western Reserve University researchers and the other by Harvard.

Fusobacteria begins in the oral cavity and it is most often associated with periodontal disease, but it can enter the blood stream, migrating to the colon and other parts of the intestinal tract. Yet, early research failed to find fusobacteria within cancerous tumors. Harvard researchers investigated early colorectal cancer formation, in order to determine if the absence of bacteria was associated with the timing of examinations. They found new evidence of fusobacteria in colon tumors.

Furthermore, the researchers concluded that the presence of Fusobacteria elevated tumor generation, when tested on an intestinal cancer susceptible in a mutant strain of mice. This type of microbe infection attracts myeloid cells, which are a specific type of immune cell that exacerbates inflammatory responses which can cause cancer, according to authors of the study.

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