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Colorectal Cancer Glossary of Terms


Fecal diversion: the surgical creation of an opening of part of the colon (colostomy) or small intestine (ileostomy) to the surface of the skin. The opening provides a passageway for stool to exit the body.

Fecal incontinence: Also called accidental bowel leakage. The inability to retain stool, resulting in bowel accidents.

Fecal occult blood test: test used to detect blood in the stool. To screen for colon cancer, the test is recommended every year starting at age 50, This test can be done in addition to the flexible sigmoidoscopy test every 5 years.

Fistula: an abnormal connection that forms between two internal organs or between two different parts of the intestine. This is a common complication of Crohn's disease.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy: a routine outpatient procedure in which the inside of the lower large intestine (called the sigmoid colon) is examined. Flexible sigmoidoscopies are commonly used to evaluate bowel disorders, rectal bleeding, or polyps (usually benign growths), and to screen people over age 50, with a barium enema for colon and rectal cancer. During the procedure, a physician uses a sigmoidoscope (a long, flexible instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter) to view the lining of the rectum and the large intestine. The sigmoidoscope is inserted through the rectum and advanced into the large intestine (colon) to view the lining of the rectum and the lower third of the large intestine (sigmoid colon).

Fluoroscopy: an X-ray technique that allows the doctor to observe how an organ performs its normal function; for example, how the esophagus works during swallowing.

Gas: a product of digestion that is made primarily of odorless vapors -- carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane. The unpleasant odor is due to bacteria in the large intestine that release small amounts of gases containing sulfur. Everyone has gas and eliminates it by burping or passing it through the rectum. In many instances people think they have too much gas, when in reality they have normal amounts. Most people produce one to three pints of intestinal gas in 24 hours, and pass gas an average of 14 times a day.

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