Commonly Used Terms
The removal of a sample of tissue for purposes of diagnosis. A biopsy of a polyp may be the only way to truly determine the presence of colon cancer.
A procedure using a colonoscope (thin, flexible tube with a camera at its tip), which examines the lining of your entire bowel. Any polyps will be sent to a lab and tested for cancerous cells.
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.
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.
A secondary cancer that grows when cells from the primary cancer detach themselves and move elsewhere in the body.
Blood that is not visible to the naked eye. A Fecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBT) looks for blood in the stools (blood that a patient might not notice).
A growth found within the lining of the colon. Polyps usually start as benign, non-cancerous growths, but they can become malignant/cancerous. If polyps are found to be malignant, you will be ordered diagnostic imaging (CT scan, MRI, PET scan) to stage the cancer. This information will be used to discuss treatment options with you.
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 considered the most curable; Stage 4 requires aggressive treatment.
Stage 0: The tumour is localized in a polyp and can be removed during a colonoscopy.
Stage 1: The cancer is present only in the inner bowel wall. 90% of patients are cured by surgical removal of the cancerous bowel segment.
Stage 2: The cancer has grown through the muscle layers of the bowel wall. The five-year survival rate is 80% after surgery.
Stage 3: 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.
Stage 4: The cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the liver, lungs, ovaries, or bladder. Chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery may be recommended.