Colorectal cancer (CRC), sometimes referred to as colon cancer, is cancer that grows in the colon or rectum. While abnormal masses of cells in other types of cancer are called tumors, the masses in colorectal cancer are sometimes called polyps.
Your colon and rectum are part of your gastrointestinal (GI) system tasked with expelling food after your body has absorbed the nutrients.
The following can be signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, but other conditions can come across the same way. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of the following:
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all adults ages 50 to 75 years old get screened for CRC. The USPSTF also encourages people who range from 45 to 49 years of age to get screened, but the recommendation is not quite as strong. The purpose of a screening test is find abnormal growths in the colon—called polyps—and remove them before they turn cancerous.
Colorectal cancer screenings are recommended as follows:
Consult with your doctor on the best screening test for you. Each test has pros and cons. Some have a higher risk of false positives or may not screen the entire colon. Your doctor will explain which screening test(s) he or she feels is most appropriate for you, its benefits, and its risks.
Common Screening Tests
Endoscopic ultrasound is used to examine the organs of the digestive tract and the surrounding tissue and organs. Information about the layers of the intestinal wall and adjacent areas including lymph nodes and blood vessels can also be obtained using EUS.
During the procedure, a tissue sample of suspicious tumors or enlarged lymph nodes may be obtained under EUS guidance so that they may be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. This is called a fine needle aspiration (FNA) and is an alternative to exploratory surgery or other invasive testing.
Endoscopic ultrasound is especially useful in the diagnosing and staging of cancers of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, rectum, pancreas, and sometimes lung. Information regarding the depth of penetration and spread of cancer to adjacent tissues and lymph nodes can be obtained using EUS. Masses or cysts of the pancreas and chronic pancreatitis may also be evaluated using EUS. Bile duct abnormalities, including stones in the bile duct or gallbladder can be studied using endoscopic ultrasound. The procedure is also useful for studying bile duct, gallbladder or liver tumors. EUS may help discover reasons for fecal incontinence when used to examine the sphincter muscles of the lower rectum and anal canal. Abnormalities, such as lesions or nodules that may be hiding in the intestinal wall beneath normal-appearing intestinal tract lining may also be studied using EUS (“submucosal” or “subepithelial” lesions).