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Frequently Asked Questions About Colorectal Cancer

3. I recently had a colonoscopy and my doctor said they removed an adenoma during the procedure. What is an adenoma?

An adenoma is a benign, or non-cancerous polyp or growth in the lining of the large intestine. Adenomas are considered to be precursors of colon and rectal cancer.

All cancers of the colon and rectum begin as an adenoma, but few adenomas (only 1 or 2 out of 100) ever become malignant (cancerous). This process takes several years. When polyps are discovered during an examination of the colon (such as the colonoscopy), doctors sometimes find it hard to tell which are pre-cancerous and which are not. Even among adenomas, it is impossible to tell which ones will become malignant, although larger adenomas are at a higher risk for becoming malignant. For this reason, all polyps in the colon and rectum are removed.


4. Should I change my diet to reduce my risk of getting colon cancer?

There has been substantial debate over whether diet affects a person's risk of colon cancer. It is believed that fiber is important to reduce colon cancer risk, although studies have shown that a high-fiber diet really doesn't make a difference. However, diets rich in fat and cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

Still, most scientists agree that people should continue to add fiber to their diets, as fiber-rich foods are an important source of nutrients and help prevent many other serious conditions, like heart disease. Research also shows that a high-fiber diet may help lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar, combat overeating, and help prevent other gastrointestinal conditions like diverticulosis (outpouchings of the lining of the intestine that are prone to bleeding and infection), constipation, and maybe even stomach and esophageal cancers.

Keep in mind that the best way to prevent colon cancer is to keep active, eat a balanced diet, maintain your ideal body weight, and schedule polyp screenings regularly after age 50, or earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer.

5. My husband has extreme fatigue after his colon cancer treatments. How can I help him conserve his energy and feel better?

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its treatment. The exact reason for this fatigue is unknown, but it may be related to the disease process or its treatments.

To combat fatigue, have your husband follow these suggestions:

  • Evaluate your energy level. Keep a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors.
  • Be alert to your personal warning signs of fatigue, such as difficulty in concentrating, body aches and pains, and feelings of exhaustion. 
  • Conserve energy by planning ahead and organizing your work, scheduling rest, pacing yourself, practicing proper body mechanics, and by prioritizing and delegating your activities.
  • Maintain good nutrition. Ask a dietitian for tips on eating healthy during your cancer treatments. 
  • Exercise. Regular, moderate exercise can decrease feelings of fatigue, help you stay active, and increase your energy. Even during cancer therapy, it is often possible to continue exercising.
  • Manage stress by adjusting your expectations, practicing relaxation techniques, and participating in activities that divert your attention away from fatigue.
  • Talk to your doctors. Although cancer-related fatigue is a common, and often expected, side effect of cancer and its treatments, you should feel free to mention your concerns to your doctors. There are times when fatigue may be a clue to an underlying medical problem. Other times, there may be medical interventions to assist in controlling some of the causes of fatigue. Finally, there may be suggestions that are more specific to your situation that would help in combating your fatigue.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arnold Wax, MD on July 05, 2012

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