Colorectal Cancer Is Treatable and Curable if Found EarlyThis year, about 148,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer — cancer that occurs in the colon or the rectum.
Controlling and curing colorectal cancer depends on prevention and early detection. In fact, colorectal cancer is the second most preventable cancer, after lung cancer. When the cancer is found early, initial treatment can often lead to an excellent, long-term outcome.
Treatment for Colon and Rectal CancerThe board-certified surgeons of the Colon & Rectal Clinic of Houston, based in the Texas Medical Center, are trained and experienced in treating patients with colorectal cancer.
Surgery is the primary treatment for colon cancer. Usually the cancer and a length of normal colon on either side of the cancer (as well as nearby lymph nodes) are removed. The two ends of the colon are then sewn back together.
Surgery for colon cancer can sometimes be done with a new approach called "laparoscopic" or "keyhole" surgery. In this method, a lighted tube and special instruments are placed inside the body through a few small incisions, rather than one large one. Keyhole surgery for colon cancer works as well as the standard approach and patients usually recover faster than they do after the usual operations.
For colon cancer, a colostomy (an opening in the abdomen for getting rid of body wastes) is not usually needed, although sometimes a temporary colostomy may be required.
For rectal cancer, surgery is also the preferred treatment, although radiation and chemotherapy will often be given before surgery.
Possible Signs of Colon and Rectal CancerThese and other symptoms may be caused by colon cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. You should contact your physician if any of the following problems occur:
- A change in bowel habits
- Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Feeling very tired
Diagnosing Colon and Rectal CancerEarly and comprehensive diagnosis is critical to the treatment of colorectal cancer. The physicians of The Colon & Rectal Clinic use the latest diagnostic techniques to pinpoint your illness and to determine the most appropriate treatment.
CRC physicians may use the following tests and procedures:
- Physical exam and history: A comprehensive health history will be taken and physical exam will check general signs of health, including lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
- Fecal occult blood test: Stool (solid waste) will be checked for blood that can only be seen with a microscope.
- Digital rectal exam: The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
- Barium enema: A series of x-rays of the lower gastrointestinal tract (lower GI) is taken as a liquid containing barium (a silver-white metallic compound) is put into the rectum and coats the lower gastrointestinal tract.
- Sigmoidoscopy: In this in-office procedure, a sigmoidoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the rectum into the sigmoid colon to look inside the rectum and sigmoid (lower) colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. Samples may be taken for biopsy.
- Colonoscopy: Done as an outpatient procedure, with the patient sedated, a colonoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the rectum into the colon to look for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. Samples may be taken for biopsy.
- Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
Age and Health History Can Increase Your Risk to Develop Colorectal Cancer.Family history and your own health history can be important factors in your risk for developing colorectal cancer. Risk factors include the following:
- Age 50 or older
- A family history of cancer of the colon or rectum
- A personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast
- A history of polyps in the colon
- A history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Crohn´s disease
- Certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome).
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or have a family history of colorectal cancer or other colorectal diseases, please call the Colon & Rectal Clinic nearest you to arrange for an evaluation. Time is often critical in diagnosing and treating colorectal cancer.
For more detailed information on the symptoms and treatment of colorectal cancer check out our Colorectal Cancer Facts or visit The American Cancer Society.