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Rectal Cancer: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Rectal cancer remains a significant health concern, but early detection and advances in treatment have improved patient outcomes significantly.

Sambhav Kumar
Written by: Sambhav KumarUpdated at: Jun 27, 2023 17:10 IST
Rectal Cancer: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Onlymyhealth Tamil

Rectal cancer, a type of colorectal cancer, that begins in rectum. Despite being a challenging condition, advances in medical research and early detection methods have significantly improved outcomes for patients. 

Understanding Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer develops in the cells lining the rectum, the last segment of the large intestine. It originates from the growth of abnormal cells in the rectal lining, forming polyps that can eventually become cancerous tumours. 

While the exact causes remain unknown, certain risk factors such as age, family history, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and a diet high in processed foods have been associated with an increased likelihood of developing rectal cancer.

Recognising Symptoms and Early Detection

According to Dr CN Patil, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru, early detection plays a vital role in successfully treating rectal cancer. Awareness of potential symptoms is key to timely diagnosis. Common signs include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Persistent changes in bowel habits
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue

It is crucial not to dismiss these symptoms and to promptly consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Also read: Red Spots On Your Body Can Be Cherry Angiomas: Doctor Says Not A Sign Of Cancer

Diagnostic Procedures

Medical professionals employ various methods to diagnose rectal cancer accurately. These include:

  • A physical examination
  • Digital rectal examination (DRE)
  • Colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy
  • Imaging tests (such as CT scans and MRI), and laboratory analyses of blood samples. 

These diagnostic procedures allow physicians to determine the stage and extent of the cancer, facilitating personalised treatment plans.


Rectal cancer treatment plans depend on several factors, including the cancer stage, location, and the patient's overall health. A multidisciplinary approach involving medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons is often employed. The primary treatment modalities include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, either individually or in combination. Surgery aims to remove the tumour and potentially nearby lymph nodes, while radiation therapy and chemotherapy help shrink tumours and destroy cancer cells.

Also read: Pancreatic Cancer: Expert Explains Implications Of Immunotherapy

Advancements in Treatment

According to the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, recent years have witnessed remarkable advancements in rectal cancer treatment. Techniques like minimally invasive surgery, robotic surgery, and transanal endoscopic microsurgery have revolutionised the field, offering reduced invasiveness, faster recovery times, and improved outcomes. 

Also, targeted therapies and immunotherapies show promise in treating advanced or metastatic rectal cancer, providing new avenues for personalised treatment options.

Preventive Measures and Lifestyle Modifications

While not all cases of rectal cancer can be prevented, adopting certain lifestyle modifications may reduce the risk. These include maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and adopting a diet rich in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Regular screenings, such as colonoscopies, are essential, especially for individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer.


Rectal cancer remains a significant health concern, but early detection and advances in treatment have improved patient outcomes significantly. Recognising symptoms, seeking medical attention, and adhering to preventive measures are crucial steps in battling this disease. 

With ongoing research and developments in the field, there is hope for further advancements in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of rectal cancer. By raising awareness and prioritising proactive healthcare, we can continue to make strides in defeating this silent battle.