Download Colon and Rectal Cancer (Colorectal Cancer)

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Colon and Rectal Cancer
(Colorectal Cancer)
The Colon and Rectum
The colon and rectum are parts of the large intestine, which is a part of the digestive system. The digestive system processes food for energy and rids the body of solid waste. After food is chewed and swallowed, it:
Travels from the mouth, through the esophagus, to the stomach, where it is partially broken down.
It then goes to the small intestine or small bowel, where the food continues to be broken down and some nutrients are absorbed.
Next it goes to the large intestine where water and mineral nutrients from food are absorbed. It also stores the waste products, called feces or stool.
This waste matter then passes from the body through the anus to the outside.
The first 4 ½ feet of the large intestine are called the colon, and the remainder is the rectum. Each section of the colon and rectum has several layers of tissue. The colon and rectum are nourished by blood, which delivers nutrients and oxygen to these tissues to keep them healthy. Lymph vessels and lymph nodes, important in fighting infection in the body, are also located near these structures.
Colon and Rectal (Colorectal) Cancer
Most cancers are named for the part of the body or the type of cell in which they begin. 
Most colorectal cancers start in the innermost layer and invade some or all of the layers of the colon and rectum. 
Adenocarcinoma is cancer that begins in the glandular cells that line the inside of the colon and rectum. About 95% of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas.
Metastatic colorectal cancer occurs when cancer cells travel through blood and lymph fluid from the original tumor site in the colon or rectum (primary site) to another area of the body. Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Symptoms of colorectal cancer can be like the symptoms of other digestive problems. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis of cancer so it is important to see a doctor when you have these symptoms. Some common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
Dark or deep red blood in the stool
Bright red blood coating the surface of the stool
A change in bowel habits
“Gas” pain or cramping
Severe or sudden abdominal bloating, pain, vomiting, or constipation
Unexplained fatigue – feeling very tired Diagnosis The doctor will ask you about your medical history and perform an exam. The doctor may also:
Ask questions about your family’s history of cancer.
Inspect your abdomen for enlargement and/or masses.
Perform a digital rectal exam
Check a stool sample for hidden blood.
Send a blood sample to the lab for complete blood count and to look for specialized proteins in the blood (CEA), which may signal the presence of cancer.
Other procedures used in diagnosing colorectal cancer include:
Sigmoidoscopy, which is an exam of the lower part of the large intestine (bowel) with a long, thin, flexible fiber-optic instrument (sigmoidoscope).
Colonoscopy, which is an exam of the lining of the entire large intestine using a long, flexible, lighted instrument (colonoscope). 
Taking small tissue samples to be checked for cancer during either of the above procedures. 
A Barium Enema, which is a special x-ray of the large intestine. A small tube containing liquid barium and air is inserted into the rectum to make the bowel easier to see. Your doctor or nurse will give you special instructions to follow before having one of these procedures. Follow these closely. You may feel some discomfort or pressure during these tests.
Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on many factors. Your doctor will discuss your options and make a treatment plan with you. You may have one or more treatments. For example, some patients have surgery followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Some of the common treatments for colorectal cancer are:
Surgery - A segmental resection or partial colectomy is most commonly done. The cancer and a length of normal tissue on both sides of the cancer are removed. 
Radiation Therapy – This is used mainly for rectal cancer. High-energy rays from a machine are directed at the tumor site to destroy cancer cells. 
Chemotherapy - This treatment uses medications to destroy cancer cells. The doctor may use one medication or several medications. Follow-up Care
Regular follow-up care ensures that changes in health are noted so that recurrent cancer or other problems can be treated as soon as possible. You will have regular exams that may include blood tests, CT scans, chest X-rays, or other tests. Between checkups, you should report any health problems to your doctor as soon as they appear.
Rev.10/07, Rev. 5/13
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