Colorectal Cancer: Robin Gibb, Bee Gees Singer, Dies After Battling The Disease (UPDATED)

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UPDATED 5/21: Robin Gibb died Sunday (May 20) after battling cancer, according to news reports.

A statement from a family spokesperson said: "The family of Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, announce with great sadness that Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery," HuffPost Celebrity reported. "The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time."

CNN reported that Gibb had battled colon and liver cancer.

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The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb, 62, has awoken from the coma he fell into last week, and his doctor now says the singer is battling colorectal cancer, according to news reports.

USA Today reported that Gibb underwent two operations, in addition to chemotherapy treatments, for his advanced colorectal cancer.

According to Rolling Stone, the aggressive treatments led to brain swelling as a result of liver failure. Gibb also developed pneumonia because his body was so weak; he lost consciousness last week.

However, Rolling Stone reported that his doctor is amazed by his recovery:

"Only three days ago, I warned Robin’s wife, Dwina, son, Robin John and brother, Barry, that I feared the worst," Gibb's physician and gastroenterologist, Dr. Andrew Thillainayagam, said in a statement released today by Gibb's representative. "We felt it was very likely that Robin would succumb to what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to any form of meaningful recovery. As a team, we were all concerned that we might be approaching the realms of futility."

Gibb, according to HuffPost UK is still "exhausted, extremely weak and malnourished," and is currently in intensive care, where he is being fed through a tube and breathing with assistance from an oxygen mask.

Colorectal cancer is defined as cancer that develops either inside of the large intestine, or in the rectum (which is at the end of the colon), according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 103,170 new cases of colon cancer and 40,290 new cases of rectal cancer this year in the United States. An estimated 51,690 people are expected to die from both colon and rectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer usually develops slowly. Most (95 percent) cases are called adenocarcinomas, which begin to grow in the cells that make up the mucus glands that function to keep the inner colon and rectum lubricated, according to the American Cancer Society. However, there are other kinds of tumors, too, including carcinoid tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors, lymphomas and sarcomas.

Like many other cancers, colorectal cancer severity is defined by stages. Stage 1 means that the cancer hasn't spread at all past the colon's wall or the rectum, while stage 2 means that the cancer has grown in the colon wall or rectal wall, but has not grown in the lymph nodes. Stage 3 colorectal cancer means that the cancer has spread to just the lymph nodes, and stage 4 cancer means it has spread to other parts of the body, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include being over age 50; having a family history of the disease; having had endometrial, breast, ovarian, colon or rectal cancer in the past; having a history of Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis; or having a history of colon polyps, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The Mayo Clinic reports that smoking, heavy drinking, being obese or having diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating a diet that's high in fat and low in fiber could also be risk factors for the disease.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include bowel habit changes, having blood in your stools, having continuous abdominal pains or cramps, feeling weak, and unexplained weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If experiencing these symptoms, a doctor may have you undergo a blood test (though there are no diagnostic blood tests, it would simply be to provide a better picture of what your body is going through), a colonoscopy, an X-ray of the colon or a CT scan of the colon, the Mayo Clinic explains.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that colorectal cancer death risk can be cut by 53 percent if people get colonoscopies as recommended, Reuters reported.

Reuters reported that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people ages 50 to 75 get a colonoscopy every 10 years; a stool test once a year; or flexible sigmoidoscopy (a general look at the colon that is not as thorough as the other methods) every five years with a stool testing every other year, or every three years.

However, the CDC reported last year that one in three adults isn't getting screened for colorectal cancer as often as they should be.

While the total number of people being screened for colorectal cancer in the United States has increased over the past eight years -- from 52 percent in 2002 to 65 percent in 2010 -- screening rates are still too low among people ages 50 and 75, the Vital Signs report said.

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