Colorectal cancer takes the spotlight in March because it’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. The surgical specialists at Candela and Schreier Medical Corporation offer effective treatment for colorectal cancer year-round but are happy to participate in this nationwide effort to inform their Southern California communities about the diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer.
How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?
Depending on its type and location, colorectal cancer is often very slow-growing and may not cause any symptoms or signs for several years, until it’s advanced beyond the early stages.
Signs that may lead your physician to suspect colorectal cancer include:
- Changes in your bowel habits that may include persistent diarrhea or constipation
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal symptoms that may include cramps, gas, or pain
- The sensation that your bowel isn’t emptying completely
- Weakness, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss
If you’re experiencing these or other symptoms, your doctor may recommend screening stool studies to check for blood and may order other lab tests to evaluate your overall health.
By far, however, the superstar for diagnosing colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. During this minimally invasive procedure, your doctor uses a long, flexible tube with an attached camera (colonoscope) to carefully examine the inside of your rectum and colon for signs of cancer or polyps that may eventually become cancerous.
If your specialist encounters small polyps or tissue abnormalities during a colonoscopy, he or she can often completely remove the abnormal growth with instruments that are passed through the flexible scope. Specimens are then sent for biopsy to determine whether cancer is present.
The colonoscopy is also an invaluable screening tool. It’s recommended that men and women over 50 have a screening colonoscopy; if you have a family history or other issues that increase your risks of developing colorectal cancer, you should get screened earlier.
How do you treat colorectal cancer?
Surgical removal of the tumor(s) is the most effective treatment for colorectal cancer that has not spread (metastasized). Surgery is also recommended for more advanced colorectal cancer, but your therapy may include other treatments such as chemotherapy if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs.
What is the surgery like for colorectal cancer?
There are several ways to surgically address colorectal cancer, and the type of surgery depends on the size, location, and nature of your cancer. Small, cancerous polyps that have a thin, stalk-like base, for instance, are often easily removed with a wire loop and electrocautery during a colonoscopy.
Larger polyps may require a mucosal resection, during which your surgeon removes the abnormal growth and a small portion of the mucosal lining of the colon or rectum adjacent to the targeted polyp.
Cancerous tumors that have grown large enough to push through the colon wall require a partial colectomy. During this procedure, your surgeon removes the cancerous growth and portions of affected colon. He or she then attaches the healthy ends of the remaining colon together with sutures or small titanium staples.
Partial colectomy and other colorectal surgeries are typically accomplished with minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, which reduces the overall risk of bleeding, infection, and other complications related to open or traditional surgery. Currently, the trend is for robotic-assisted, laparoscopic removal of the growth and surrounding margins, along with lymph nodes that drain the area to get accurate staging information and determine what further treatment may be necessary.
The surgical specialists at Candela and Schreier Medical Corporation are using the daVinci® Surgical System to perform colorectal surgery for state of the art treatment at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center. This highly advanced system offers greater surgical precision than was previously available on standard laparoscopic platforms. The robotic-assisted operation allows for faster recovery time and better outcomes than with traditional open surgery.
If you’re facing surgery for colorectal cancer, schedule a consultation at Candela and Schreier Medical Corporation. We make every effort to see you within 48 hours of the time you contact one of our two offices. Call today or request an appointment online.