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Colorectal Cancer Glossary of Terms

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Clinical trial: a research program conducted with patients to evaluate a new medical treatment, drug, or device.

Colectomy, partial: a surgical procedure that involves removing part of the colon and joining the ends that remain. This is used to treat colon cancer or severe, chronic ulcerative colitis.

Colectomy, segmental: a surgical procedure that involves removing segments of the colon.

Colectomy, total: a surgical procedure that involves removing the entire colon, with the small intestine being attached to the rectum.

Colitis: inflammation of the colon.

Colon: the last six feet of the intestine (except for the last eight inches, which is called the rectum); also called the "large intestine" or "large bowel."

Colon cancer: a malignant (cancerous) tumor arising from the inner wall of the large intestine. Although the exact causes of colon cancer are not known, it appears that both hereditary and environmental factors, such as diet, play a role in its development. The early stages of cancer may have no symptoms. Therefore, regular screening is important.

Colon and rectal surgeon: an expert in colon and rectal problems. Colon and rectal surgeons treat benign and malignant conditions, perform routine screening examinations, and surgically treat problems when necessary. They have completed advanced training in the treatment of colon and rectal problems in addition to full training in general surgery.

Colonoscopy: an outpatient procedure in which a doctor inserts a colonoscope (a long, flexible instrument about ½ inch in diameter) in the rectum and advances it to the colon to view the rectum and entire colon.

Colostomy: the surgical creation of an opening between the surface of the skin and the colon; also referred to as a large intestine stoma. This is usually done when very large areas of bowel are removed, and the ends cannot be joined, or when there is a blockage in the intestine.

Constipation: difficult, infrequent, or incomplete passage of stools. Constipation usually is caused by inadequate fiber in the diet or a disruption of regular routine or diet. Constipation can also be caused by overuse of laxatives, and can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Constipation is also a side effect of narcotic analgesics.

Contraindication: a factor that makes use of a drug or other treatment inadvisable.

Crohn's disease: a chronic inflammatory disease that involves all layers of the intestinal wall. It primarily affects the lower part of the small intestine, called the ileum, but it can affect any part of the large or small intestine, stomach, or esophagus. Crohn's disease can disrupt the normal function of the bowel in a number of ways.

Desmoid tumors: growths of scar tissue that are very tough and firm. Desmoid tumors are rare among the general public, but are found in up to 13% of people with familial adenomatous polyposis, or FAP, who are at increased risk of colorectal cancer.

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