• Colorectal cancer is cancer that affects the large intestine (also known as the colon) or the rectum. The word “colorectal” is just a shortened way of saying colon and rectal.

    Colorectal cancer can be serious. But there are various ways to take care of it.

  • Yes, there are a few tests that can discover colorectal cancer. Your doctor can explain your choices.

    If your doctor thinks you have colorectal cancer, he or she will probably suggest a test called a “colonoscopy.” During a colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a tube and a tiny camera into your anus and up to your colon. That way, he or she can look for cancer or previous problems.

Colorectal cancer may not cause any symptoms at first. When it does cause symptoms, it can cause:

  • Stomach pain
  • A change in your bowel movements (number, texture, or size)
  • Blood in your bowel movements
  • Feeling weak

Most types of colorectal cancer are treated with one or more of these:

  • Surgery to remove the part of the colon or rectum that has cancer
  • Chemotherapy, which is the medical term for medicines that destroy cancer cells or stop them from increasing.
  • Radiation therapy

That depends on what type of surgery you have. If your doctor can reconnect your colon or rectum after removing the part with cancer, you should be able to have bowel movements normally. But if your doctor cannot reconnect your colon or rectum, he or she will create a hole in your belly and attach the end of the colon or a loop of intestine to that hole. The hole is called a “colostomy.” Your bowel movements will come out during the opening into a bag that is glued to your skin.

Some people need to have a colostomy only for a short time, called a “temporary colostomy or ileostomy.” Then they can have an additional surgery to reconnect their colon or rectum. Other people need to have a colostomy for the rest of their life. This is called a “permanent colostomy or ileostomy.” If you need a colostomy, your doctor will put you in touch with people who can help you learn how to manage.

After you finish treatment, you should see your doctor every so often for a few years. That technique he or she can check to see if the cancer comes back. You will probably have to have blood tests every so frequently, a few more colonoscopy tests and also a special kind of X-ray called a “CT scan.” Your doctor will also speak to you about your mood, stress level, sex life, eating and exercise routine, and any other problems you might have after finishing treatment.

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