About Colorectal Cancer


You have the power to stop colon cancer before it starts! Getting a screening test for colon cancer could save your life. Here’s how:

  • Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is an abnormal growth in your colon.
  • If polyps are not removed, some polyps can turn into cancer.
  • Screening tests can find polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
  • Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early. When it is found early, the chance of being cured is good.

If you have any symptoms, such as a change in bowel habits, including persistent constipation or diarrhea, rectal bleeding, dark patches in your stools, blood in your stools, abdominal discomfort, unexplained fatigue, or loss of appetite or weight you should get tested early. If you have risk factors, you should be screened at an earlier age. If you have symptoms that suggest colorectal cancer, your doctor will use different methods to find out if the disease is actually present.

  • Medical history and physical exam – Your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your health in general and any other conditions or disease that you might have.
  • Tests will be scheduled to look for colorectal polyps or cancer such as a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, barium enema (as described in the previous section). A biopsy will be done on any part of the colon or rectum that does not look normal. For a biopsy, the doctor removes a small piece of the tissue from the area of concern. This is done during a colonoscopy. The tissue is then sent to the laboratory where it is looked at under a microscope to see if cancer is present. While other tests may suggest colorectal cancer, a biopsy is the only way to know this for sure.
  • Imaging Tests:These tests use x-rays, magnetic fields and radioactive substances to create pictures of your body to evaluate the extent of your cancer. Some of the tests are:

-CT scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan uses x-rays to make detailed pictures of structures inside of the body. During the test, you will lie on a table that is attached to the CT scanner, which is a large doughnut-shaped machine. The CT scanner sends x-rays through the body area being studied. An iodine dye is often used to make structures and organs easier to see on the CT pictures. The dye may be used to check blood flow, find tumors and look for other problems. The dye can be used in different way. It may be put in a vein in your arm, or it may be placed into other parts of your body to see those areas better. For some types of CT scans you drink the dye. CT pictures may be taken before and after the dye is used.

-MRI: A magnetic resonance imaging scan is usually called an MRI. Each picture or "slice" shows only a few layers of body tissue at a time. The MRI machine uses a large magnet, and a computer to make pictures of your body. Pictures taken this way will help your doctors find and see problems in the body more easily. This test usually takes between 15 and 90 minutes. Notify the technologist or your physician if you feel uncomfortable in confined spaces, because the MRI unit can feel cramped. MRI is painless and does not expose you to x-ray radiation.

-Bone scan: This procedure helps show if cancer has spread to the bones. You will get an injection of radioactive material. This substance is attracted to diseased bone cells throughout the entire skeletal system. Areas of diseased bones will be seen on the image as dense, gray to black areas that may suggest presence of cancer spread to the bones.

-PET/CT scan: PET scans use a form of sugar that contains a radioactive atom. A small amount of this radioactive material is injected to your arm. Because of the high amount of energy that GI cancer use, areas of the cancer in the body absorbs large amounts of radioactive sugar and the PET machine uses a camera to detect this activity. A PET/CT scan will help determine whether the cancer has spread.

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