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Colorectal cancer is a common form of cancer. The colon is part of the digestive system. The digestive system is composed of the stomach, esophagus and the large and small intestines. The upper six feet of the large bowel is called the colon and the lower six inches is called the rectum.  

When detected early, both colon and rectal cancer have high cure rates.

Women & Infants' Center for Women's Gastrointestinal Health offers a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary focus on problems with the gastrointestinal system of women, in a setting staffed by all female practitioners. Call for more information (401) 453-7953

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Screening / Diagnostic Tests

Screening tests are done every three to five years after age 50, and earlier and more frequently for those people with a strong family history of the disease or ulcerative colitis. Women & Infants' Center for Women's Gastrointestinal Health uses several types of tests to diagnose colon and rectal cancer. Most of the tests are simple and painless, although some patients may feel some discomfort and require mild anesthesia.

To find out more about scheduling a test, please call (401) 453-7953.

  • Rectal examination - Wearing thin gloves, the doctor puts a lubricated finger into the rectum to check for lumps or masses.
  • Fecal occult / hemoccult blood test - A small stool sample may be checked for blood.
  • Sigmoidoscopy - Using a thin tube called a sigmoidoscope, the doctor can examine the inside of the rectum or lower colon for lumps or masses. No anesthesia is needed for a sigmoidoscopy.
  • Colonoscopy - A long instrument, similar to the sigmoidoscope, is used to look at the inside of the entire colon for masses and/or abnormal tissue. This procedure allows the doctor to see much further into the bowel than the sigmoidoscope. Moderate sedation (e.g., Demerol and Versed) is administered for this test.
  • Lower GI series - This test is used to obtain an x-ray of the colon and rectum. It is sometimes referred to as a barium enema. The barium outlines the colon and rectum on the x-rays to help the doctor see tumors or other abnormal tissue. If necessary, the colon may be expanded to look for small masses. The doctor does this by lightly pumping air into the colon.  If a polyp or mass is found during colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, the doctor may remove all or part of it through the scope and examine it under a microscope for cancer cells.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of colon and/or rectum cancer and/or polyps.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
  • Cancer of female organs.
  • Ulcerative colitis.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • High-fat diet.
  • Low-fiber diet.
  • Not enough fruits and vegetables in your diet.


  • Bright red blood in the stool.
  • Diarrhea that is not the result of cold or flu.
  • Constipation for an unusually long period.
  • Cramps and pain in the abdominal region.
  • Persistent decrease in size or caliber of stool.
  • Frequent feeling of bloating in the abdominal or bowel region.
  • Weight loss.
  • Unusual and continuing lack of energy.