Detection & Treatment Options

Colorectal Cancer – Detection & Treatment

Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer for both men and women, and over 100,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. The most significant risk factor for colorectal cancer is age, as 90% of cases occur in patients over 50. That said, colorectal cancer can develop at any age, and other risk factors include a diet full of red meat and low in fruits and vegetables, obesity or physical inactivity, excessive smoking and drinking, or a previous history of colorectal cancer, colon polyps, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s Disease. There are no distinctive symptoms of colorectal cancer, but a patient may experience any of the following:

  • General abdominal discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic anemia
  • Unexplained fatigue

Screening Methods for Colorectal Cancer

Most cases of colorectal cancer are found through routine screenings. We may use any of the following tests to determine if colorectal cancer is present:

  • A routine physical with a digital rectum exam (DRE)
  • Stool tests
  • A sigmoidoscopy, which uses a thin, lighted tube to check the sigmoid colon for polyps or abnormal growths
  • A double-contrast barium enema, which allows x-rays to map the inside of the bowel
  • A colonoscopy, which involves using a long, lighted tube to examine the entirety of the colon for polyps or other abnormal areas

If an exam finds polyps or other abnormal areas, we’ll perform a biopsy, in which we remove a small piece of tissue from the abnormal area and examine it in a lab. If the biopsy shows colorectal cancer is present, we’ll also need to perform other tests to determine if the cancer has spread.

Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer

In general, we’ll normally use surgical methods to treat cancers of the colon or rectum. If the cancer hasn’t metastasized (spread), surgery may be enough to treat the cancer on its own, but if it has spread, treatment will require other methods as well. These other treatments generally include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which may be given separately or together either before or after the surgery. Your treatment method will depend on the stage of the cancer, the size and location of the tumor, and your general health conditions.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is an advanced form of cancer treatment that uses controlled, precisely-measured doses of radiation (light energy) on a tumor to prevent the spread of cancer, control the growth of a tumor, cure the cancer itself, or to ease certain symptoms. Radiation therapy prevents cancer cells from multiplying, effectively stopping the spread of a tumor. Once the cancer cells die off, they’re eliminated naturally by the body. If your doctor prescribes you with radiation therapy, you’ll receive radiation treatments five days a week for about 6 weeks, although the exact length of treatment will vary depending on your condition. At OC CyberKnife, we use one of the most advanced, effective radiation therapy systems in the world, helping to maximize the effectiveness of your treatment while minimizing side effects.

Potential Side Effects

Most patients experience few or no side effects, but radiation therapy for colorectal cancer may come with any of the following side effects:

  • Increased frequency of bowel movements
  • Frequent urination
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal pressure or discomfort
  • Skin irritation
  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Side effects are generally controllable and fade after treatment is completed. We’ll work with you to help you manage side effects during your treatment.

Self-Care During Treatment

While CyberKnife is one of the most powerful cancer treatments in the world, cancer treatment of any kind can be draining on a mental and physical level. It’s important to take special care of yourself during treatment by doing things like:

  • Getting enough rest
  • Following your doctor’s instructions
  • Eating a healthy & well-balanced diet
  • Take special care of skin exposed to radiation
  • Seeking emotional support from family, friends, and cancer support groups

Contact Your Orange County Cancer Treatment Center

At OC CyberKnife, our mission is to help each one of our patients overcome cancer and reclaim a healthy, vibrant life. If you or a loved one feel you may be suffering from colorectal cancer or have recently been diagnosed, take heart: there is hope and we are here to help. Feel free to call us at 714.962.7100 with any questions, or if you’d like to schedule a consultation, just reach out to us at our contact page. We can’t wait to hear from you, and we look forward to helping you eliminate your cancer and achieve total health and wellbeing