Understanding Colon Cancer

By A. Richard Adrouny | Go to book overview

4

. The “Look” of
Colon Cancer

The Signs of Colon Cancer and Tests Used by Physicians
to Diagnose It

A “symptom” is an abnormality felt by a person. A “sign” is an abnormality observed by a physician or other health care professional in a physical examination or in a laboratory or x-ray examination. Symptoms are the “feel” of a disease or disorder and will be discussed in chapter 5. Signs are the “look” of a medical problem.


The Physical Examination

When someone with colorectal cancer in the early stages walks into a doctor's office for an examination, the most likely circumstance is that neither the patient nor the physician will feel or see an obvious sign of cancer. Yet finding cancer in its earliest stages, when a patient is asymptomatic, provides the greatest opportunity for cure.

The most important test for colorectal cancer that a physician performs during a physical examination is the digital rectal exam (DRE). After taking a good look at the anus to see if there are abnormalities such as hemorrhoids, warts, fissures, fistulas (abnormal opening to the external surface), skin tags or tumors prolapsing (protruding) from the rectum, the physician performs a careful finger examination. Wearing latex gloves, the examiner inserts the index finger through the anus and into the rectum. Lesions in the rectum up to seven centimeters (2.75 inches) from the external boundary of the anus can be detected with the sweep of the finger. It is estimated that this examination can detect as many as 15 percent of colorectal cancers.

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Understanding Colon Cancer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Understanding Colon Cancer *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • 1 - Who Gets Colon Cancer and Why *
  • 2 - The Colon *
  • 3 - How Colon Cancer Develops *
  • 4 - The [look] of Colon Cancer *
  • 5 - The [feel] of Colon Cancer *
  • 6 - Stages and Prognosis of Colon Cancer *
  • 7 - Surgical Treatment of Colon Cancer *
  • 8 - Treatment of Later Stages of Colon Cancer *
  • 9 - Prevention *
  • 10 - The Future *
  • Appendix *
  • Glossary *
  • Index *
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