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COLORECTAL CANCER

  • May begin as a small polyp, detectable through regular cancer screening, such as colonoscopy.
  • Symptoms include:
    • change in bowel habits or bleeding, but often there are no symptoms.
  • Early detection is key to the effective treatment with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.

Usually start with no signs and symptoms as these occur later stages. The most common manifestations include:

  • Pain in the belly.
  • Bloody stools or very dark stools.
  • A change in your bowel habits. (Frequent stools or a feeling that your bowels aren’t emptying completely)
  • Constant tiredness (fatigue).
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Your doctor will ask questions on your medical history and perform a physical exam.

Other tests may include:

  • Colonoscopy
    • Your doctor uses a lighted scope to visualize the inside of your entire colon.
    • Removal of Polyps is possible during this procedure.
    • Recommended when another screening test points toward colorectal cancer.
  • Sigmoidoscopy
    • Your doctor uses a lighted scope to visualize the lower part of your intestine.
    • Removal of Polyps is possible during this procedure.
  • Barium enem
    • A Barium preparation is inserted through your rectum into your intestine which outlines the inside of the colon so that it can be visualized on an X-ray.
  • Biopsy
    • A tissue sample is taken from the inside of your intestine and examined under a microscope to look for signs of cancer.
  • Complete blood count
    • A blood test used to look into symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, anemia, bruising, or weight loss.

For people those who have an increased risk for colorectal cancer, regular colonoscopy is the recommended.

When you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor may order other tests to find out if the cancer has spread. These tests include:

  • CT scan
    • Check for spread to the liver, lungs, or belly.
  • Chest X-ray
    • To check for spread to the lungs.
  • MRI or PET scan
    • To check for spread into the chest or organs in the belly or pelvis.
  • Ultrasound
    • To pinpoint the cause of belly pain or increased belly girth and possible spread to the liver
    • An endoscopic ultrasound is used to see how far rectal cancer may have spread.
  • Blood chemistry panel
    • To check if the cancer has spread to your liver and bones.
  • Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) blood test
    • To check this specific tumor marker level

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

  • Chemotherapy
    • To control the cancer’s growth or relieve symptoms
    • Often the administered through a needle in your vein or are available as pills and sometimes given as a shot, or injection.

Medicine choices

A combination of multiple drugs often have better effect than a single drug in colorectal cancer treatment. The most commonly used drugs are:

  • Fluorouracil (5-FU) combined with leucovorin
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Capecitabine
  • Irinotecan

Hair loss can be a common side effect with some types of chemotherapy.

Treating the side effects

Your doctor may prescribe medications to help alleviate these side effects such as mouth sores, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

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