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Colorectal Cancer Glossary of Terms


Gastroenterologist: an expert in the treatment of diseases of the digestive (gastrointestinal) tract. They have completed advanced training in the treatment of digestive problems.

Gene: the basic unit of heredity found in all cells. Each gene occupies a certain location on a chromosome that contains the DNA that transfers genetic information.

Genetic counseling: a process in which a genetic counselor obtains a complete family and personal medical history in order to determine the probable existence of a genetic problem occurring within a family. The interpretation and implications of genetic testing are discussed. Often used for prospective parents in order to provide information about risks of diseases prior to conception, or during pregnancy. Genetic testing also helps inform those who are at risk of inheriting hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), which increase the risk of getting colorectal cancer.

Genetic testing: blood or tissue tests that may be ordered to detect the presence of genetic abnormalities that place a person at risk for getting certain diseases, such as cancer. For patients and families suspected of having an inherited disease it may be possible to find the mutation causing the disease through genetic testing of blood.

Grade: a labeling system that is used to indicate a cancer's appearance as compared to normal tissue.

Hemorrhoids: swollen veins which line the anal opening, caused by excess pressure from straining during a bowel movement, persistent diarrhea, or pregnancy.

Hepatitis: a disease in which the liver is inflamed. A viral infection is usually the cause of hepatitis, although sometimes toxins or drugs are the cause.

Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC): a syndrome in which a gene mutation influences the development of colon, rectal, and other cancers. Colon and rectal cancer occurs frequently in HNPCC families.

Hormonal therapy: the use of hormones to treat cancer patients by removing, blocking, or adding to the effects of a hormone on an organ or part of the body.

Hormones: chemicals produced by glands in the body. Hormones control the actions of certain cells or organs.

Ileal (J) Pouch: a pouch for holding stool that is used to replace the rectum after a total proctocolectomy. There are four forms of the ileal pouch, named after the shape in which the end of the small intestine (the ileum) is placed before it is sewn (or stapled) to make a pouch. The most common form is the "J" pouch, but there also are the "S," the "H" and the "W" pouches.

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