Colorectal Health

Colorectal health includes disorders of the colon, rectum, and anus. UTMB Health offers experts in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of colon and rectal problems. Our gastroenterology providers and colon and rectal surgeons treat benign and malignant conditions, perform routine screening examinations and surgically treat problems when necessary.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States and some experts predict that colorectal cancers will be the leading cause of cancer deaths by 2030. Colorectal (large bowel) cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Together, the colon and rectum make up the large bowel or large intestine. Most colon and rectal cancers start as benign (non-cancerous) wart-like growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called polyps. Because colorectal polyps can take 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer, earlier screenings and removal of polyps is recommended.

Risk Factors

There is no single cause for colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer. These are the most common risk factors, but if you are aged 45 to 75 or have a higher than average risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about being screened.

  • AGE: 45 or older.
  • GENDER: Colorectal cancer affects both men and women.
  • MEDICAL HISTORY: Personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps, inflammatory intestinal conditions, or certain inherited syndromes.
  • DIET: A high-fat, low-fiber diet with lots of red or processed meats.
  • LIFESTYLE: Low physical activity, obesity, smoking, and heavy alcohol use.
  • Having type 2 diabetes

Signs and Symptoms

Most early colorectal cancers do not have symptoms. This is why screenings are so important. Although colorectal cancer can start with no symptoms, watch for:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel is not completely empty
  • Stools narrower than usual
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Feeling very tired and weak
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