A Bottoms Up Glossary
and Other Resources

Be well informed. Here is a cheat sheet for screening-related terms.

Biopsy
The removal of a sample of tissue for purposes of diagnosis. A physical exam, imaging, a flex sig, a colonoscopy and lab tests may indicate that something is abnormal, but a biopsy of the polyp may be the only sure way to know whether the problem is, in fact, cancer.

Colonoscopy
Think telescope. Think of a long, thin, flexible telescope with a tiny camera on the tip that goes up your anus, into your rectum and takes a tour through your entire colon. The doctor who performs the colonoscopy is highly trained and the screening process usually takes less than half an hour. During the colonoscopy, the doctor removes suspicious-looking growths, or polyps, and sends them to be tested for any sign of cancerous cells.

Colostomy
A surgically created opening that allows bowel contents to empty from the colon into a bag or pouch that is outside your body.

Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)
FAP is an inherited disease that causes the growth of numerous polyps in the colon and rectum, with a very high chance of developing colorectal cancer. Genetic counselling and special screening is recommended. Fortunately, this is a relatively rare cause of CRC.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
A procedure in which a flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and lower colon. There is a small camera at the tip of the scope, which allows the doctor to examine the lining of the lower bowel.

Metastasis
A secondary cancer that grows when cells from the primary cancer detach themselves and move elsewhere in the body.

Occult Blood
Blood that is not visible to the naked eye. A Fecal Occult Blood Test looks for blood in the stools, blood that a patient might not notice.

Polyp
A growth found within the lining of the colon. Polyps usually start as benign, non-cancerous growths but they can become malignant/ cancerous.

Staging colorectal cancer
A determination of how deeply a cancer has invaded tissues in the colon and/or rectum, and whether it has spread to lymph nodes or distant organs. Stage 0 is the least worrisome; Stage 4 is the most deadly.

Stage 0: The tumour is localized in a polyp and can be removed during a colonoscopy.
Stage 1/Dukes’ Stage A: The cancer is present only in the inner bowel wall. Ninety per cent of patients are cured by surgical removal of the cancerous bowel segment.
Stage 2/Dukes’ Stage B: The cancer has grown through the muscle layers of the bowel wall. The five-year survival rate is 80 per cent after surgery.
Stage 3/Dukes’ Stage C: The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. When the cancer has spread to only one to three nodes, the prognosis is better than when four or more nodes are involved. The five-year survival rate after surgery alone is 35 to 60 per cent.
Stage 4/Dukes’ Stage D: The cancer has spread to distant organs, for instance, your liver, lungs, ovaries or bladder. The chance of cure is small. The five-year survival rate hovers around 3 per cent. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery may be prescribed.

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