​Tommy Chong Diagnosed With Rectal Cancer

The comic actor uses his trademark humor to educate fans on the disease.

Canadian comedian, actor, writer, director, activist, and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Tommy Chong told US Weekly in June 2015 that he has been diagnosed with rectal cancer.

I’ve had some medical issues lately… I got diagnosed with rectal cancer…. I’m in treatment now.”

In true Cheech and Chong fashion, he posted the following tweet:

In an interview with Access Hollywood Live, Chong said that he sought medical advice when he began to experience blood in his stool, and was told that his cancer is in stage 1. He said he would undergo a short course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy before having the tumor removed surgically.

This is not Chong’s first time dealing with cancer. In 2012, the That '70s Show alum was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate.

Chong also tweeted that he plans to document his cancer fight on the “Chong and Chong” podcast to “let fans know how my fight is going. Please wish me luck while I kick cancer's behind. Thank you for all of your love and support."

A Brief Anatomy Lesson

The rectum is part of the body’s digestive system. The digestive system takes in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body. 

The digestive system is made up of the esophagus, stomach, and the small and large intestines. The colon (large bowel) is the first part of the large intestine, and is about five feet long. Together, the rectum and anal canal make up the last part of the large intestine, and are six to eight inches long.

What is Rectal Cancer?

Rectal cancer is a form of colon cancer that has formed in the rectum.

Sometimes the term colorectal cancer is used interchangeably.

There are several factors that can put you at higher risk for colorectal cancer:

  • Being age 50 or older;
  • Having certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch syndrome); or
  • Having a personal history of any of the following:
    • ​Colorectal cancer;
    • Polyps in the colon or rectum;
    • Cancer of the ovary, endometrium, or breast;
    • Having a parent, brother, sister, or child with a history of colorectal cancer or polyps.

What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

The signs and symptoms of rectal cancer include:

  • ​Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool;
  • A change in bowel habits, such as:
    • ​Diarrhea;
    • Constipation;
    • Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely;
    • Stools that are narrower or have a different shape than usual;​
  • General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps);
  • Change in appetite;
  • Weight loss for no known reason; or
  • Feeling very tired.

Check with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

What are the Stages of Rectal Cancer and How Does This Affect Treatment?

After rectal cancer has been diagnosed, the next step is to find out how far the cancer may have spread. This determines how it will be treated and the chances that it can be cured. This process is called staging.

In stage 0 (also called carcinoma in situ) abnormal cells are found only in the innermost layer of the rectum wall. Typically these cancers can be cured by surgical excision, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

In stage I, cancer has spread to deeper layers and may involve the band of muscle in the outer wall. The treatment is surgical resection, sometimes supplemented by radiation therapy or chemotherapy following surgery.

In stage II, the cancer has grown through the muscle layer and may involve neighboring tissues. By stage III, the tumor is present in neighboring tissues and has also spread to lymph nodes. For stage II and III cancers, radiation and chemotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor, which is then surgically removed.

In stage IV, the cancer has spread (metastasized) through the blood and lymph nodes to other parts of the body, such as the lung, liver, abdominal wall, or ovary. For stage IV cancers, or cancers that have come back (recurred) after treatment, chemotherapy is necessary, sometimes with the addition of so-called “targeted” drugs. These drugs are targeted at certain genes that might be driving a patient’s cancer. Examples include cetuximab and panitumumab. Another drug, called bevacizumab, can be used to deprive cancers of their blood supply.

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Celebrity Diagnosis: Teachable Moments in Cancer is produced by Celebrity Diagnosis LLC to raise awareness and knowledge of health and medical issues. The information on the subjects of these articles is derived from public news sources. Celebrity Diagnosis LLC and its employees are not involved in the care of any of the subjects nor do they have access to, or knowledge of, the subjects' medical records or personal health information. Celebrity Diagnosis LLC is solely responsible for the contents of these articles.​​

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