Colon Cancer & Rectal Cancer

Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer, and 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 Detection and Diagnosis of Colon & Rectal Cancers

Screening can often detect colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer early, when it's small, hasn't spread, and might be easier to treat. Additionally, because polyps can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer, regular screening can also be an effective method of colon and rectal cancer prevention.

Screening tests for colon and rectal cancer are:

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT). Both polyps and colon and rectal cancers can bleed, and FOBT checks for tiny amounts of blood in feces (stool) that cannot be seen visually.
  • Sigmoidoscopy. In this test, the rectum and sigmoid colon are examined using a sigmoidoscope, a flexible lighted tube with a lens for viewing and a tool for removing tissue. This instrument is inserted through the anus into the rectum and sigmoid colon as air (or carbon dioxide) is pumped into the colon to expand it so the doctor can see the colon lining more clearly.
  • Standard (or optical) colonoscopy. In this test, the rectum and entire colon are examined using a colonoscope, a flexible lighted tube with a lens for viewing and a tool for removing tissue. Like the shorter sigmoidoscope, the colonoscope is inserted through the anus into the rectum and the colon as air (or carbon dioxide) is pumped into the colon to expand it so the doctor can see the colon lining more clearly.
  • Virtual colonoscopy. This screening method, also called computed tomographic (CT) colonography, uses special x-ray equipment (a CT scanner) to produce a series of pictures of the colon and the rectum from outside the body. A computer then assembles these pictures into detailed images that can show polyps and other abnormalities. Virtual colonoscopy is less invasive than standard colonoscopy and does not require sedation.

If polyps are found during colon and rectal cancer screening, a biopsy may be performed. In a biopsy, the doctor takes a small sample of tissue for testing in a laboratory by a pathologist. Often, the abnormal tissue can be removed during colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. If a biopsy is not possible, the doctor may suggest other tests that will help make a diagnosis.

If you have screening test results that suggest colon and rectal cancer or you have symptoms, your doctor must find out whether they are due to cancer or some other cause. To do this, your doctor will ask questions about your personal and family medical history and give you a physical exam.

If your physical exam and test results do not suggest cancer, your doctor may decide that no further tests are needed and no treatment is necessary. However, your doctor may recommend a schedule for checkups.

How fast should I make decisions?

It’s important to make good decisions without delay. With colon and rectal cancers, it’s important to act fast but not so fast that you miss opportunities to listen to the physicians recommended cancer treatment plan and consider any questions you may have. The first step is typically scheduling an appointment with a colorectal cancer specialist.

Questions to ask?

  • Is it colon cancer or rectal cancer?
  • Will I need more tests?
  • Will I need a colostomy bag? Will it be permanent?
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • What are the treatment options for my colon or rectal cancer?
  • Does my colorectal cancer treatment plan include surgery?
  • Will cancer treatment affect my daily life?
  • What are the side effects of my treatment options?
  • Do my siblings or children have an increased risk of colon or rectal cancer?
  • Should I exercise during chemotherapy or radiation treatments?
  • Will I need to see other medical specialists as part of treatment?

The Rise of Colon and Rectal Cancer in Young Adults

The incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults has increased sharply in generations born after 1950. Individuals born in the 1990s (currently age 20 to 29) are twice as likely to develop colon cancer and four times as likely to develop rectal cancer than individuals born in the 1950s were at those ages.

Signs and Symptoms of Colon and Rectal Cancer

  • Any indication of blood on or in the stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Cramps, gas or unusual stomach pain that persists
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Constipation, diarrhea, bowel incontinence or other unusual bowel habits

Risk Factors for Cancer

You may be at a higher risk of developing cancer if you have family history of cancer or of developing a second cancer if you’ve already had a cancer before. You should discuss with your physician what cancer screening tests are right for you and the recommended schedule if you are at a higher risk.

Early Detection

Early detection is important because when abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread, making it harder to treat.

Now diagnosed as colon cancer or rectum cancer

What is the next step?

According to the European guideline which we have implemented in Al Manara International Hospital, the treatment plan will be prepared i.e either first taking Radio-chemotherapy and then the Operation or first Operation and then Chemotherapy.

The treatment plan will be prepared comprising of a team of:

  • Gastroenterologist
  • Colorectal Surgeon
  • Oncologist
  • Radiotherapist
  • Radiologist
  • Pathologist

The operation will be made principally laparoscopically (key-hole) method and mostly through the new technique (single port incision) only one incision nearly 3 cm.

Through this operation the colon segment, which contains the tumor will be removed with all the lymph nodes and the vessels which belong to this colon segment to avoid the recurrence of the tumor.

Pathology: after examining the specimen under microscope the tumor will be classified accordingly and the postoperative oncology therapy will be done.

Oncology: according to the stage of tumor the therapy will be either only chemotherapy or chemotherapy with radiotherapy. Sometimes the patient need no Therapy at all.