Intestinal CancerTumors in the colon are common. Although the majority are not malignant, cancers of the colon are the most frequent in the intestinal tract. If a tumor of the colon is suspected, the methods for diagnosing it are readily available and highly accurate. Unlike cancer of the stomach, cancers of the colon can usually be effectively removed and the long term outlook is much better. Because these are growths in the wall and passageway for stool, they cause blockage of the stool passage and they bleed.
Any change in bowel habit, cramps or bleeding in the stool requires investigation for the possibility of a colon tumor. Certain innocent tumors of the colon appear to have the potential for becoming cancerous. The surgical techniques and methods for managing these tumors are well established.
How can you know that there is a tumor in the colon?Sometimes the tumor can be felt by a digital examination of the rectum. At other times the physician can see the tumor through an instrument called a sigmoidoscope, which is inserted into the rectum for a distance of ten or more inches. Another procedure is to put barium into the rectum by an enema method and take X rays of the barium filled intestine. This is called a barium enema examination.
What does it mean to be "sigmoidoscoped" and how is the tumor seen through the rectum?This procedure can be done in the doctor's office. It is completely painless and does not require an anesthetic. You must take a laxative the night before and have a cleansing enema early on the morning of the examination. A hollow tube with a light attached is advanced to the colon through the rectum. This is easily done. If any abnormal growths are seen, a part of them can be removed (biopsied) for microscopic examination. All activities can be immediately resumed. Bleeding soon afterward is usualy insignificant and comes from the biopsy wound. This examination is a routine part of every adequate cancer detection study.
What is the barium enema X ray?The examination is done in the hospital or in the office of an X-ray specialist (a radiologist). As far as the patient is concerned, he will be getting an enema, but instead of water it contains a barium compound, which molds with the colon and can be photographed. The patient lies on a table during the examination and is moved about so that he can be photographed in various positions. Then the barium is passed just as if he were having a bowel movement. X-ray photographs are also taken in this evacuated state. The films are developed immediately and the diagnosis usually is readily made.
Where the study reveals a small tumor that can be confused with a piece of stool or where the findings are otherwise uncertain, the examination is repeated in a few days. The procedure is painless, with only a mild sense of abdominal pressure and a desire to move the bowels. A properly performed examination allows for an accurate diagnosis in most instances.