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Sporadic Nonhereditary Colorectal Cancer

Sporadic (Nonhereditary) Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer starts anywhere on the colon or rectum. It affects about 5 percent of the population in the United States. Each year, up to 150,000 new cases are diagnosed.

Benign to malignant polyp progression
Benign to malignant polyp progression. (Click to Enlarge)

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Colorectal cancer does not usually produce symptoms early in the disease. The symptoms you experience depend on where the primary tumor is located.

Symptoms include:

  • Blood in stool; sometimes, the blood is not obvious, called occult (hidden) blood

  • Anemia

  • Abdominal distension and pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Pelvic pain

  • Loss of appetite, weight and strength

Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis at Johns Hopkins

Because you may not experience symptoms during the early stages of the disease, it is crucial to undergo regular screenings. This way, if cancer is present, it can be caught and treated early. When polyps or cancer are found early, the cure rate is close to 100 percent.

The combination of screening and prevention is important in the fight against colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and when you should begin screening.

Diagnostic procedures include a physical examination and:

Fecal Occult Blood Test

This blood test looks for occult (hidden) blood in the stool. For this test:

  1. You receive three small cards and place a sample on each from three consecutive bowel movements.

  2. A small amount of the stool is placed on a special test strip.

  3. The stool is analyzed for traces of blood.

Barium Enema

A barium enema is an X-ray of the rectum and colon. Before the procedure, you will need to clear your colon of any stool. Preparations may include a liquid diet, enema or laxative. During a barium enema:

  1. A barium preparation (contrast material) is inserted through a rectal tube.

  2. The barium outlines the colon, highlighting any abnormalities.

  3. An X-ray is taken.

  4. Your doctor can see the entire colon and see if polyps or cancer are present.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a type of endoscopic diagnosis. An endoscope is a thin, flexible lighted tube that your doctor inserts inside you to see the affected area.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy examines the rectum and lower colon. During the procedure:

  1. Your colon must be clear of stool so your doctor has good visibility. Preparations may include a liquid diet, enema and laxatives.

  2. Your doctor inserts the sigmoidoscope through the rectum and into the anus and large intestine, and checks to see if cancer or polyps are present.

  3. Biopsy forceps may be inserted through the scope in order to remove a small sample of tissue for further analysis.

  4. The procedure may cause some cramping or discomfort.

Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is the most widely used diagnostic test to study the colon. It has the highest sensitivity of all tests. Doctors can examine 90 to 95 percent of the colon during most colonoscopies.

During a colonoscopy:

  1. Your colon must be clear of stool so your doctor has good visibility. Preparations may include a liquid diet, enema and laxatives.

  2. You are sedated before the procedure.

  3. Your doctor inserts the colonoscope through the rectum and into the anus and large intestine, and checks to see if cancer or polyps are present.

  4. A biopsy forceps may be inserted through the scope in order to remove a small sample of tissue for further analysis.

  5. A polyp can be removed through the colonoscope.

  6. The procedure may cause some cramping or discomfort.

Sporadic (Nonhereditary) Colorectal Cancer Treatment at Johns Hopkins

Treatment will depend on how early the cancer is caught. Sometimes, your doctor can remove polyps during a colonoscopy and no further treatment is necessary. Other times, you may need surgery and/or chemotherapy. Learn more about sporadic (nonhereditary) colorectal cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins.

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