Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
Cancer starts when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body.
The American Cancer Society estimates 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime.
How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?
An early diagnosis of colorectal cancer gives you the best chance of curing it.
Your doctor will start by getting information about your medical and family history. They’ll also perform a physical exam. They may press on your abdomen or perform a rectal exam to determine the presence of lumps or polyps.
Your doctor may run some blood tests to get a better idea of what’s causing your symptoms. Though there’s no blood test that specifically checks for colorectal cancer, liver function test and complete blood count tests can rule out other diseases and disorders.
A colonoscopy involves the use of a long tube with a small, attached camera. This procedure allows your doctor to see inside your colon and rectum to check for anything unusual.
During a colonoscopy, your doctor can also remove tissue from abnormal areas. These tissue samples can then be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Your doctor may order an X-ray using a radioactive contrast solution that contains the metallic element barium. Your doctor will insert this liquid into your bowels through the use of an enema. Once in place, the barium solution coats the lining of the colon. This helps improve the quality of the X-ray images.
CT scans provide your doctor with a detailed image of your colon. When used in diagnosing colorectal cancer, another name for a CT scan is a virtual colonoscopy.
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer may not present any symptoms, especially in the early stages. If you do experience symptoms during the early stages, they may include:
- changes in stool color
- changes in stool shape, such as narrowed stool
- blood in the stool
- bleeding from the rectum
- excessive gas
- abdominal cramps
- abdominal pain
Our healthcare providers are here to help. Contact us to learn more about colon cancer screening.