Dr. Kolachalam, Colorectal Surgery
Is surgery dealing with disorders of the rectum, anus, and colon. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States, striking 140,000 people annually and causing 60,000 deaths. That’s a staggering figure when you consider the disease is potentially curable if diagnosed in the early stages.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnostic procedures, such as a colonoscopy, are very important in colorectal surgery, as they can tell Dr. Kolachalam what type of diagnosis should be given and what procedure should be done to correct the condition.
Colon cancer is preventable. The most important step towards preventing colon cancer is getting a screening test. Any abnormal screening test should be followed by a colonoscopy. Some individuals prefer to start with colonoscopy as a screening test.
Colonoscopy provides a detailed examination of the bowel. Polyps can be identified and can often be removed during colonoscopy.
There are several methods for detection of colorectal cancer.
- digital rectal examination
- a chemical test of the stool for blood
- flexible sigmoidoscopy
- colonoscopy (lighted tubular instruments used to inspect the lower bowel) and barium enema.
Be sure to discuss these options with Dr. Kolachalam to determine which procedure is best for you. Individuals who have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with colon cancer or polyps should start their colon cancer screening at the age of 40.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are:
- rectal bleeding
- changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea. (These symptoms are also common in other diseases so it is important you receive a thorough examination should you experience them.)
- Abdominal pain and weight loss are usually late symptoms indicating possible extensive disease.
Unfortunately, many polyps and early cancers fail to produce symptoms. Therefore, it is important that your routine physical includes colorectal cancer detection procedures once you reach age 50.
Who is at risk?
Though colorectal cancer may occur at any age, more than 90% of the patients are over age 40, at which point the risk doubles every ten years. In addition to age, other high risk factors include:
- family history of colorectal cancer
- family history of polyps
- personal history of ulcerative colitis
- personal history of colon polyps
- personal history of cancer of other organs
- personal history of the breast or uterus.
How does it start?
It is generally agreed that nearly all colon and rectal cancer begins in benign polyps. These pre-malignant growths occur on the bowel wall and may eventually increase in size and become cancer. Removal of benign polyps is one aspect of preventive medicine that really works!
How is colorectal cancer treated?
Colorectal cancer requires:
- surgery in nearly all cases for complete cure.
- Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used in addition to surgery.
Between 80-90% are restored to normal health if the cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages. The cure rate drops to 50% or less when diagnosed in the later stages. Thanks to modern technology, less than 5% of all colorectal cancer patients require a colostomy, the surgical construction of an artificial excretory opening from the colon.