Colorectal DivisionColorectal Cancer
Nearly all colorectal cancers start out as benign polyps — pre-malignant growths found on the bowel wall that can turn into cancer. The good news is that colorectal cancer is treatable and often preventable. There are a number of ways to detect colorectal cancer, such as stool tests for hidden blood, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or barium enema. Other new options are also available, so let us help determine the best procedure for you. Treatment typically requires surgical removal of the cancer, and in some cases chemotherapy and radiation are combined with surgery to improve outcomes. If detected and treated in the earliest stages, 80 to 90 percent of colorectal cancer patients can be restored to normal health.
Polyps of the Colon and Rectum
Polyps are abnormal growths on the lining of the large intestine. They can grow flat against the intestine wall or outward into the intestine.. Polyps can bleed, block the bowel or cause mucus discharge. Most polyps start out benign, but, because of their tendency to become cancerous, removing them is advised. This treatment is usually done through colonoscopy on an outpatient basis. Sometimes large polyps or smaller flat polyps cannot be removed via colonoscopy, and surgery may be advised.
Colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a long, flexible instrument to examine the lining of the colon and rectum. The examination is a common procedure that is done on an outpatient basis with minimal inconvenience or discomfort. Regular colonoscopies are recommended for adults over age 50 as part of a colorectal cancer screening and prevention program. Due to family or personal history, some people are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer and should undergo screening before turning 50. Speak with your primary care provider or schedule an appointment at CARES to discuss your risk for developing colorectal cancer and to determine the optimum time to begin colorectal cancer screening and prevention.
Screening and Surveillance for Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States, but it is the second leading cause of cancer death. Because of this, screening and surveillance are important for colorectal cancer prevention through the removal of precancerous polyps and for early detection when cancer is more likely to be curable. Screening is performed to identify and remove precancerous polyps in people without symptoms. Surveillance is for people who have previously had polyps and/or colorectal cancer or for those who are at increased risk. For most people, recommended screening begins at age 50, but it can be recommended sooner based on family and personal health history. A free video that explains your colorectal cancer screening options is available through the American Cancer Society.
Follow-Up Evaluation after Surgery
Once we’ve treated your cancer, we don’t want it coming back. Follow-up evaluations after surgery are an equally important part of cancer treatment. Even after all visible cancer is removed, it is possible for cancer cells to live in other parts of the body, and grow at a later time. Follow-up evaluations increase the likelihood of early detection, and it gives us the opportunity to look for and remove new colon or rectal polyps that may become cancerous as well. Health evaluations and blood tests are recommended every three months for two years, and more sparingly for the following three years. Colonoscopy should be repeated 6-12 months after cancer treatment and again several years later, depending upon colonoscopy results. X-rays and scans are not routinely scheduled except in some high risk cases, but they may be ordered if abnormalities are found in your blood test or on your physical exam.
Genetics and Colorectal Cancer
Because genes determine our physical features and what makes us vulnerable to certain diseases, it is important to provide a detailed family history when visiting your doctor. Unfortunately, genes are the reason why some diseases, such as cancer, are more common is some families. In regards to colon and rectal cancer, about 30 to 40 percent of cases are due to genetics. In these cases, our Geneticist, Dr. Schmidt, can help you formulate the best plan for detection, prevention and treatment.