Delta Medix Patient General Information

Colorectal Cancer

Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer. Cancer that begins in the rectum is called rectal cancer. Cancer that starts in either of these organs may also be called colorectal cancer. The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive system. The colon is the first four to five feet of the large intestine, and the rectum is the last several inches.

When colorectal cancer spreads outside the colon or rectum, cancer cells are often found in nearby lymph nodes. If cancer cells have reached these nodes, they may have also spread to other lymph nodes or organs. When cancer spreads from its original place to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the original tumor. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.

Screening tests help your doctor find polyps or cancer before you have symptoms. Finding and removing polyps may prevent colon cancer. Treatment for colorectal cancer is more likely to be effective when the disease is found early.

A common symptom of colorectal cancer is a change in bowel habits. Other symptoms include

  • Having diarrhea or constipation
  • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
  • Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
  • Finding your stools are narrower than usual
  • Frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
  • Losing weight with no known reason
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having nausea or vomiting

Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems can cause the same symptoms. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Treatment Options for Colon and Rectal Cancers

  • Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancer. In rectal cancer, some patients receive surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
  • Colonoscopy: A small malignant polyp may be removed from your colon or upper rectum with a colonoscope. Some small tumors in the lower rectum can be removed through you anus without a colonoscope.
  • Laparoscopy: Early colon cancer can be removed with the aid of a thin, lighted tube (laparoscope). The surgeon is able to see inside your abdomen with the laparoscope, and remove the tumor and possible nearby lymph nodes.
  • Open Surgery: The surgeon makes a cut (incision) into your abdomen to remove the tumor and part of the healthy colon or rectum. Some nearby lymph nodes are also removed.
  • Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and can affect cancer cells all over the body. Anticancer drugs may be given through a vein, but some may be given by mouth.
  • Biological Therapy can interfere with cancer cell growth and spread of cancer. A monoclonal antibody is a type of biological therapy, which binds to colorectal cells. People may also receive chemotherapy at the same time.
  • Radiation Therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cancer cells only in the treated area. The different types of radiation therapy used are external radiation and internal radiation.