What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the colon, also known as the large intestine. It occurs when cells grow and divide excessively in the colon. Many colorectal cancers begin as small precancerous colorectal polyps that develop slowly into cancer.
Some people may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer. However, when symptoms do appear, they can vary depending on the size and location of the cancer. Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may consist of:
- A change in bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhea or consistency of stool.
- Prolonged and sometimes severe abdominal discomfort
- Rectal bleeding or bloody stools
- Unexplained weight loss
How is Colorectal Cancer Diagnosed at South Denver GI?
Regular colorectal cancer screening tests in people of average risk should start at age 45 and be performed every 10 years thereafter, if the screening is normal. However, people with a personal or family history of cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may undergo screening earlier in life due to their increased risk of colorectal problems.
There are several screening tests that can be used to detect colorectal cancer in Denver. These may include a colonoscopy to detect polyps or cancer, a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) to test for blood in the stool, a fecal DNA test to detect genetic mutations and blood in the stool, a flexible sigmoidoscopy to look for polyps inside the rectum and lower colon or a double contract barium enema, in which the colon and rectum are examined through an X-ray.
If you are having symptoms associated with colorectal cancer or if your screening test shows something abnormal, your doctor may recommend blood tests, imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI, a diagnostic colonoscopy or a proctoscopy to diagnose colorectal cancer.
Colon Cancer Treatment Options
Treatment options for colorectal cancer will be based on the stage or severity of the cancer. The stages of colon cancer are determined by Roman numerals ranging from 0-IV and are categorized by the depth of the cancer in the intestine wall.
The disease in lesions in stage 0 remains within the lining of the colon or rectum. Removal of these lesions may be all that is needed for treatment.
These cancers have grown into the wall of the intestine, but have not yet spread deeper or into the lymph nodes. Treatment includes a colon resection, in which the affected areas of the colon or lymph nodes are removed.
Stage II colorectal cancer is separated into three stages; the first stage is IIA, the second stage is IIB and the third stage is IIC. In all stage II lesions, the cancer has not reached the lymph nodes yet. Usually, treatment for this stage involves surgical resection followed by chemotherapy.
Stage III colorectal cancer is an advanced stage of cancer, and the disease has spread to the lymph nodes. There are three stages of stage III cancer, including stage IIA, IIB and IIC. Treatment for stage III colon cancer includes surgery and chemotherapy.
Stage IV colorectal cancer has spread to other organs such as the liver or lungs. This stage is also split into three stages, including IVA, IVB and IVC. Treatment includes relieving symptoms and preventing complications.
Your South Denver GI Team
At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Colorectal Cancer or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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