Colorectal cancer is a disease that starts in the colon or the rectum—parts of your body's digestive system. It is one of the most common cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Who gets colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer occurs most often in men and women who are older than 50. Others at higher than average risk for the disease include those with a family history of colorectal cancer or diets high in fat and calories and low in fiber.
Are there any symptoms?
The symptoms of colorectal cancer may vary from person to person. It's also possible to have colorectal cancer and no symptoms at all. But, if you have any of the following conditions, the NCI says you should check with your doctor:
- A change in bowel habits—diarrhea, constipation or a feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain, bloating, fullness or cramps
- Weight loss with no known reason
- Constant fatigue
These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions such as infections, hemorrhoids and inflammatory bowel disease.
How is the disease diagnosed?
To determine what is causing your symptoms and if you have colorectal cancer, your doctor may look at your medical history, perform a physical exam and order one or more tests. Those tests could include:
- A blood test to look for anemia or to check your liver function.
- A sigmoidoscopy—an examination of the rectum and lower colon using a lighted tool called a sigmoidoscope.
- A colonoscopy—an examination of the rectum and entire colon using a lighted instrument called a colonoscope.
- A virtual colonoscopy—a minimally invasive imaging examination of the entire colon and rectum.
- A double-contrast barium enema—an enema with a barium solution followed by a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum.
Is colorectal cancer treatable?
Yes. But it's important to catch the disease early. The earlier colorectal cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and the better your chances for a full recovery. For early stages of colorectal cancer, surgery may be all that is required. More advanced stages may require other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
The quality of cancer programs is validated through quality watchdogs, such as the Commission on Cancer (COC). These accrediting agencies have identified best practices and standards of care based on cancer research. In order to receive accreditation, Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare voluntarily participated in an onsite survey and evaluation of our practices and outcomes. Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare is proud to say that we have received accreditation from this organization.
American College of Surgeons, Commission on Cancer (COC):Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare's cancer program has been accredited by the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer since 1992. Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare is among a select group of hospitals that have met strict clinical, education and cancer reporting requirements. Only 30% percent of the nation's hospitals have earned this recognized accreditation. This achievement is a benchmark of quality for cancer care, and Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare was granted a three-year approval. Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare has devoted considerable resources to developing and maintaining a progressive cancer care program. https://www.facs.org/quality-programs/cancer
Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare’s Multidisciplinary Cancer Committee is responsible and accountable for maintaining an exemplary cancer program for the benefit of patient with malignant colorectal cancer in accordance with the standards of accreditation. Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare is committed to providing our patients with patient-centered quality care close to home. The Committee reviews multiple quality measures, with the goal of exceeding national and local benchmarks. As you will see below we have met or exceeded every single national quality measure.
It is recommended that people under the age of 80, who have been diagnosed with AJCC stage III (lymph node positive cancer, be considered for or receive Colon-Adjuvant chemotherapy within four months of diagnosis. Since 2009, 100% of these Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare patients have received Colon-Adjuvant chemotherapy within four months of diagnosis, which exceeds the California state average.
Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare's performance gives you an idea of our overall performance compared to other cancer programs in California.