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Colorectal Cancer Glossary of Terms

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Diarrhea: a condition in which bowel movements are passed more often than usual and in a liquid state.

Digestive diseases: disorders that cause the malfunctioning of the digestive system, so that it is no longer turning food into fuel for energy, maintaining the body structure, or eliminating waste products properly. Digestive diseases range from the occasional upset stomach to colon cancer, and encompass disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, gall bladder, and pancreas.

Digital rectal exam (DRE): a screening test used to detect tumors of the prostate and rectum.

Diverticulitis: an inflammation or infection of small sacs or outpouchings (diverticula) of the inner lining of the intestine that protrude through the intestinal wall.

Diverticulosis: presence of small sacs or outpouchings (diverticula) of the inner lining of the intestine that protrude through the intestinal wall. These sacs form in weakened areas of the bowel.

DNA: the material that controls the genetics and heredity pertaining to each cell.

Double contrast barium enema: see Air contrast barium enema.

Duodenum: the first part of the small intestine, connecting with the lower opening of the stomach and extending to the jejunum.

Endoscopy: a method of physical examination using a lighted, flexible instrument that allows a physician to see the inside of the digestive tract. The endoscope can be passed through the mouth or through the anus, depending on which part of the digestive tract is being examined. This method is referred to by different names depending on the area of examination, such as: esophagoscopy (esophagus), gastroscopy (stomach), upper endoscopy (small intestine), sigmoidoscopy (lower third of the large intestine), and colonoscopy (entire large intestine).

Enema: injection of fluid into the rectum and colon to cause a bowel movement.

Epidural catheter: a small tube (catheter) passed into the space between the spinal cord and spinal column. Pain medication is then delivered through the tube.

Erythrocytes: red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to cells in all parts of the body. Erythrocytes also carry carbon dioxide from the cells back to the lungs.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD): an examination of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum in which a thin flexible tube is placed down the throat. Before the EGD procedure, an anesthetic spray is used to numb the back of the throat, and sedation is given for the 15-minute exam.

Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP): a syndrome in which a gene mutation that influences the development of colon, rectal, and other cancers is inherited. People with FAP usually have hundreds, and sometimes thousands of pre-cancerous polyps, or growths developing at a very early age. FAP is defined as the presence of more than 100 benign (adenomatous) polyps in the large intestine at one examination. Some people with FAP with a mild version of the disease have less than 100 adenomas; in these individuals the diagnosis is made by family history, or by finding the mutation during genetic testing. If untreated, cancers will develop in 100% of cases. Treatment is a total colectomy.

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