Colon & Rectal Cancer

Colon and rectal cancer is a common problem. It is the third most common cause of cancer in both men and women in the United States. It is the second most common cause of death related to cancer in the United States. Colorectal cancers usually arise from polyps. About 5% of cases have a hereditary form of colon cancer. Long standing inflammatory bowel disease is another known cause of colorectal cancer.

These cancers present with various symptoms including rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, difficulty in having a bowel movement, change in the diameter of the stool, weight loss, and anemia. Some cancers especially in the early stages can be asymptomatic and only discovered incidentally at colonoscopy.

Various tests including a flexible sigmoidoscopy, proctoscopy or even a digital examination of the rectum may aid in the diagnosis of colorectal cancer. The cancer is usually diagnosed at colonoscopy and confirmed by an appropriate biopsy. A colonoscopy is generally needed to assess the entire colon for the presence of additional tumors or polyps..

Surgery is the treatment of choice. Prior to surgery, the tumor will have to be staged in order to assess the degree of spread. This will affect the preoperative planning and may necessitate chemotherapy and radiation therapy especially in rectal cancer. The surgical approaches range from open abdominal surgery to minimally invasive surgery using either laparoscopic techniques or robotic techniques.

Read more about colon and rectal cancer at the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons website