Cancer Center

Colon-Rectal Cancer

Digestive cancers
Definition

Colorectal cancer is referred to any cancer of the colon (the large intestine) or rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as a polyp, or growth. When discovered early, most are not cancerous. Removing the polyp early can prevent it from turning into a cancerous growth.

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Symptoms

The causes of colorectal cancer remain unknown, although it seems rooted in genetic an environmental factors. Diet—particularly one that is high in fat and low in fiber—may contribute to this type of cancer. People who are frequently constipated are also at risk. There also is a strong link between family history and colorectal cancer, as those from families with history of colorectal cancer of colon polyps are at particular risk. Other risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Age (older than 50)
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Intestinal polyps
  • Obesity
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Excessive use of alcohol

Often, patients suffering from colorectal cancer experience no symptoms in the disease's early stages. As it progresses, patients may experience:

  • Stomach pain
  • Changes to bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Bloody or tar-like stools
  • Unexplained weight loss

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Treatment

A doctor will perform a physical examination, review symptoms with the patient and perform testing for colorectal cancer that can include:

  • Testing for blood in the stool
  • Colonoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • X-rays
  • CT scans

If initial testing indicates the presence of colon-rectal cancer, treatment may include:

  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SLNB) to determine if cancer has spread
  • Surgery to remove the cancerous growth
  • Laparoscopic surgery when appropriate for select colon cancer patients
  • SIR-Spheres (Selected internal radiation therapy) for patients with primary colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver and failed to respond to chemotherapy.
  • Colonic stenting to open obstructions in the colon from the tumor; may prevent the need for colostomies in certain situations
  • Total Mestenteric Excisional Surgery – state-of-the-art treatment for rectal cancer
  • Colostomy, surgery to divert a piece of the colon to an artificial opening in the abdominal wall to bypass the damaged part of the colon. Colostomies can be either temporary or permanent.
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
    • External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)
    • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

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