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Colorectal Cancer Glossary of Terms

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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.

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).

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