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starts in the large intestine (colon) or rectum.
Common symptoms include the following:
- Bloody or black bowel movements
- Abdominal pain or cramps, or a feeling of fullness
- Frequent fatigue or weakness
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Rectal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
Call 911 for any of the following:
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
- You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
- You cough up blood.
Contact your oncologist if:
- You have a fever.
- You cannot control your diarrhea or constipation.
- You vomit multiple times and cannot keep any food or liquids down.
- Your pain is worse or does not go away after you take your pain medicine.
- You see blood in your bowel movements.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Treatment for colorectal cancer
may include any of the following:
- Surgery may be needed to remove part of your colon, rectum, or lymph nodes. This may help stop the cancer from spreading.
- Targeted therapy is medicine used to target specific cancer cells and kill them.
- Chemotherapy (chemo) medicine is used to kill cancer cells. Chemo may be used to shrink the tumor or lymph nodes before surgery. Chemo may also be used after surgery to decrease the risk that cancer will come back.
- Radiation therapy is used to kill cancer cells with x-rays or gamma rays. Radiation may be given either before or after surgery to kill cancer cells. It may be given alone or with chemotherapy.
Get screened as directed:
Your healthcare provider may want you to have a yearly colonoscopy to check for colorectal cancer. Screening is recommended for all men and women older than 45 to 50 years. You may need to get screened earlier if you have colon disease or a family history of colorectal cancer.
Manage your colorectal cancer:
- Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage your colorectal cancer. Smoking also increases your risk for new or returning cancer and delays healing after treatment. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
- Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink per day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
- Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. If you have nausea or diarrhea from cancer treatment, extra liquids may help decrease your risk for dehydration.
- Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. You may need to change what you eat during treatment. Do not eat foods or drink liquids that cause gas, such as cabbage, beans, onions, or soda. A dietitian may help to plan the best meals and snacks for you.
- Exercise as directed. Ask about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise may improve your energy levels and appetite.
Follow up with your oncologist as directed:
You will need to see your oncologist for ongoing treatment and follow-up. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.