While neither the rarest nor the least understood cancer, colorectal cancer lacks the public recognition and understanding associated with lung cancer, prostate cancer, leukaemia or breast cancer. This lack of understanding means that many patients worry that they’ve been given an unavoidably fatal diagnosis when they are told they have colorectal cancer. Not so.
To help dispel some of these misconceptions and to provide some guidance for people in at-risk demographics, we’ve prepared this short article outlining the process by which colorectal cancer is discovered, diagnosed and treated. Read on to learn more.
All individuals – not just men – over the age of 50 are recommended to screen for colorectal cancer every two years using a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). An FOBT looks for hidden blood in the stool, detection of which will trigger further investigation into the cause. After a positive FOBT test has been registered, the patient may undergo a range of other tests including colonoscopy, physical examination, digital rectal examination and iron studies as well as other blood tests. If the results of these tests indicate cancer as the cause of the occult blood, the patient is recommended for the next step.
Diagnosis, staging & treatment planning
A number of avenues are open to doctors at this stage. Both colon and rectal cancer can be confirmed by CT scan, with colon cancer also detectable with positron emission tomography and rectal cancer by magnetic resonance imaging or endoscopic rectal ultrasound. Upon confirming the presence of cancerous tissue, the stage of the cancer will be determined and the patient advised of the doctor’s diagnosis. It’s here that treatment options will be presented to and discussed with the patient. Available courses of treatment will depend on whether the cancer has spread to other organs in the body, and whether individual cancers are considered to be advanced.
A range of treatments are available for colorectal cancers. For localised cases, surgery is the most frequently recommended countermeasure. However, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be recommended in certain cases as an adjuvant pre- or post-operative treatment or for managing advanced local cancers. After treatment, patients will be advised of their need for medical follow-up tests and surveillance, and will be provided with care plans for managing the late effects of treatment.
For more information on how colorectal cancer is treated, speak to the team at G & L Surgical Clinic.