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Women & Infants
 
Women & Infants Program in Women's Oncology
Colon Cancer

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 6 feet of the large bowel is called the colon and the  lower 6 inches is called the rectum.  When detected early, both colon and rectal cancer have high cure rates. 

For more information, clinicians from the Women & Infants' Center for Women's Gastrointestinal Disorders answers some important questions in a web-exclusive Q&A for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

What our patients are saying...
I wanted to tell you how easy and comfortable you and all of your staff made me feel when I had a colonoscopy. It was so nice to have all ladies there, and everyone was so nice and took the time to make sure I was comfortable at all times. I don’t know why any woman would choose to have this procedure done anywhere else. I certainly wouldn’t! So, again I want to thank you for your comfort and care, that I’m sure I couldn’t get just anywhere else. See you in 5 years!

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 Digestive Disorders use 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 sigmoidscope, 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 sigmoidscope, 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 sigmoidscope.  Moderate sedation (eg, 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
  • Cancer of female organs
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Physical inactivity
  • High-fat diet
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Too few fruits and vegetables in your diet

Symptoms may  include:

  • 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
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