Colorectal Cancer – Key Screening Tests

Fecal occult blood test – Checks for hidden blood in the stool
Sigmoidoscopy – Visually examining the rectum and lower colon, with an instrument, for abnormalities.
Colonoscopy – Visually examining the rectum and entire colon with an instrument, for abnormalities.
Barium enema – A series of x-rays of the entire colon. Usually, a barium solution is introduced into the colon, along with air. This is called a double contrast barium enema
Digital rectal examination – Examination of the rectum for any abnormal area, using a gloved and lubricated finger

Recommended screening for average-risk persons over 50 years of age include one of the following procedures:
Fecal occult blood test Every year
Sigmoidoscopy Every 5 years
Fecal occult blood test plus every year
(plus sigmoidoscopy) Every 5 years
Barium enema Every 5 to 10 years
Colonoscopy Every 10 years

Screening should start earlier in persons who are at greater risk of colorectal cancer.

Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

The 3 basic types of treatment for colorectal cancer are;

Surgery

Colon Cancer

Surgery is the main treatment for colon cancer. Usually the cancer is removed along with a length of normal colon on both sides of the cancer, and the nearby lymph nodes. Then, the two ends of normal colon are sewn back together. Sometimes, early cancer can be removed through a colonoscope. When this happens, the abdomen doesn’t have to be cut.

Laparoscopic surgery, which is relatively new, uses a lighted tube and special instruments that are inserted through a few small cuts to remove the cancer instead of one large cut. Laparoscopic surgery is reported to work as well as standard surgery, and recovery is faster.

With rectal cancer, radiation and chemotherapy may be used before surgery.

For some early colorectal cancers, removal of a cancerous polyp, or local remove of a cancer can sometimes be done with instruments placed in the anus, without having to cut through the skin.

Rectal Cancer
Four common types of rectal cancer can be done without cutting through the abdomen. They are::

Polypectomy, which means removal of a polyp, which is a mushroom-like growth across the stalk, when the polyp has very early cancer.
Local removal of very shallow or superficial early cancers, plus a small amount of nearby tissue
Locally, cutting through all layers of the rectum to remove invasive cancer, plus some of the surrounding rectal tissue.
Burning the cancer out with electrical current,

For more advanced types of rectal cancer, other types of surgery may be necessary.

Colostomy is more often used in the treatment of rectal cancer than colon cancer. It is a surgical procedure that brings the end of the colon (large intestine) through the abdominal wall. Then, the stool or solid waste material from the intestine drains into a bag attached to the abdomen. Colostomies may be temporary or permanent, depending on why they are done. However, in many cases colostomies can later be reversed.

Whether a colostomy is temporary or permanent, a health care professional is needed to train the affected person about colostomy care.

Radiation Therapy

This kind of treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill the cancer cells. In some cases, external beams of radiation are used outside the body and focused on the cancer, and in other cases, small pellets of radiation material are placed directly in the cancer.

Sometimes, radiation therapy is used before surgery to shrink the cancer, and at other times radiation is used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or small areas of cancer. People who have radiation treatment do not become radioactive. However, side effects, which often go away, may include mild skin irritation, nausea and diarrhea. Individuals who have side effects after radiation therapy should talk to their doctor about it because often solutions can be found to decrease them, or reverse them altogether.

Chemotherapy

This treatment involves the use of anti-cancer medicines to kill cancer cells. Sometimes the medicines are given through the veins in a slow drip, and at other times they are given as pills or tablets. The enter the blood stream and circulate throughout the body. There can also be side effects from chemotherapy, but most of them leave after the treatment. A well known side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss. However, when the treatments are over, which often may last for 4 to 6 months, the hair grows back. However, the appearance of the hair may be somewhat different.

Depending on how advanced the cancer is, treatment of colorectal cancer can involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of two or more of these.

REMEMBER: Colorectal cancer is preventable if polyps (small growths in the digestive tract) are removed before they become cancerous