Colorectal Cancer

The colon and the rectum—the two parts of the large intestine—are common places for cancer to occur. It is often a hidden cancer because it doesn't usually cause symptoms in its early stages.

Colon cancer affects men and women equally, usually after age 50. That's why experts recommend that adults be tested regularly for colorectal cancer after age 50. Testing is especially important for individuals who are at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer. That include those who: have had polyps (a benign growth in the colon or rectum); have a close family member with colorectal cancer; have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease; or who eat a fatty diet or smoke.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • diarrhea or constipation
  • a feeling that the bowel isn't emptying completely
  • blood in the stool
  • stools that are narrower than usual
  • frequently feeling full or bloated
  • weight loss with no known reason

There are several ways to check for hidden colorectal cancer. The most effective test is the colonoscopy. In this test, a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end is passed through the anus and up through the rectum and colon. Any precancerous polyps can be removed during the test. A sigmoidoscopy uses a similar tube, but it is able to look into only the lower portion of the colon. A third test, the fecal occult stool test, can be done at home. It checks for blood in the stool, which can be a sign of bleeding from a colorectal polyp or cancer.

 

Treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these.

Colorectal Cancer Articles

Anoscopy

A tube called an anoscope is used to look at the inside of your anus and rectum. Doctors use anoscopy to diagnose hemorrhoids, anal fissures (tears in the lining of the anus), and some cancers. (Locked) More »

Best way to prevent advanced colon cancer

A colonoscopy can help prevent the diagnosis of late-stage colon cancer. Research suggests that the test can reduce the likelihood of advanced colorectal cancer diagnosis by 70% in adults with average risk. (Locked) More »

Barium Enema

A barium enema is an x-ray test used to examine the lower digestive tract (the colon and rectum). Because the colon and rectum are normally not visible on x-rays, you need to temporarily coat their inner surfaces with barium, a liquid that does show up on x-rays. This makes the outline of these organs visible on the x-ray pictures. This test is useful for diagnosing cancers and diverticuli (small pouches that may form in the intestinal wall). (Locked) More »

Colorectal cancer genes identified

A huge new study has identified many new genetic changes that appear to be involved in causing colorectal cancer. Each of these newly identified genetic changes is a target for drug therapy. (Locked) More »

Making smart screening decisions: Colon cancer screening

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women. Several tests can find hidden colorectal cancer while it is still small and treatable. These include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, CT colonography, fecal occult blood test, and others. Testing should generally start at age 50, but women (and men) with a strong family history of colorectal cancer should talk with their doctors about having their first colonoscopy sooner than that. It's best to have a colonoscopy once every 10 years; a virtual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or double-contrast barium enema once every five years; or a stool check for blood once a year. (Locked) More »

Flexible sigmoidoscopy: it works

Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is less invasive than full colonoscopy and easier to prep for, every three to five years reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer later in life. (Locked) More »

Preparing for a colonoscopy

Preparation for a colonoscopy involves taking a substance the day before the procedure that induces bowel-clearing diarrhea. It's unpleasant and takes several hours, but adequate preparation can make the process somewhat easier to endure. More »