When reading about colon and rectal cancer, it can quickly become confusing as to which one is which and what the difference between them is. It becomes even more difficult to understand when you throw colorectal cancer into the mix. So what is the difference between all of these terms? Are there different screening and treatment methods for each of them? You’re about to find out, here is the definitive guide on the differences between colon and rectal cancer.
How to Distinguish Colon Cancer From Rectal Cancer and Vice Versa
Many references make the difference between colon and rectal cancer sound complicated and hard to identify, but in reality, they are quite distinct. Although both diseases share many common factors, there is a primary distinction that can be used to tell them apart. That distinction is the exact location in which the cancer began. If the origin point of the cancer is in the rectum, then it is considered to be rectal cancer and referred to as such. If on the other hand, the point of origin is farther up the large intestine, it will be designated as colon cancer.
It might seem strange to think of it in this way, but it’s important to note that the rectum comprises the last 12 centimeters of the colon. The rectum and the large intestine while separate, are still essentially parts of the same organ. As such, they are very much connected so if cancer starts in the rectum, it will inevitably spread throughout the rest of your colon if it’s not detected on time and properly treated.
So what about colorectal cancer? Is that a type of colon cancer or rectal cancer. Truth be told, it is neither and it is both. Colorectal cancer is a broad term that can be used to refer to both colon and rectal cancer. Although colon and rectal cancer are not the exact same disease, they are still referred to as colorectal cancer as a group.
What Are the Symptoms
Both colon and rectal cancer share several common symptoms that are remarkably similar. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s imperative that you tell your Doctor and schedule a thorough screening test like a colonoscopy.
Seeing red, black. Dark-colored spots in your stool are a potential symptom of colon and or rectal cancer. Any of these colors, when present in stool can indicate that there is blood in the stool which is something that you should tell your Doctor about right away.
Constipation, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain are also potential warning signs that you should tell your Doctor about especially when accompanied by fatigue.
Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
When it comes to treating colon cancer versus rectal cancer there are some important differences that are worth noting. Although these types of cancers are similar, the treatment strategy is somewhat unique.
Rectal cancer is considered more dangerous because of its proximity to neighboring organs. To that effect, rectal cancer treatments typically start off with chemotherapy or targeted radiation.
Colon cancer, on the other hand, is generally treated by performing surgery. Although the treatment for colon cancer usually starts with surgery it is often necessary to follow up with chemotherapy to eradicate the disease more thoroughly.
Although the treatments for colon and rectal cancer may differ, the fact that preventative screenings are key to early detection remains the same. By screening for them both, colon and rectal cancer will be easier to fight when you have the strategic advantage of early detection.
The Big Picture
There you have it, whether you’re medically interested in it or if you’re trying to win an argument on the subject at dinner, you now know the exact difference between colon and rectal cancer. In all seriousness, it really is important that you learn the difference early on so that if you suspect that you have one or the other, you won’t lose time reading information that pertains to the wrong one.
When it comes to any type of cancer be it colon, rectal, or any other type of cancer, preventative screenings are crucial. The more aggressively you screen for it, the less likely it is that you will have much or any trouble defeating it should you receive a diagnosis.
Names and semantics aside, colon, rectal, and colorectal cancer can be defeated, especially when you are screening for them. Preventative screenings are your best defense against any of these cancers and can buy you decades of life that would otherwise have been lost unnecessarily to the disease. Instead of letting colorectal cancer sneak up on you, turn the tables and sneak up on it instead with preventative screenings!