Colorectal Surgeon

A colorectal surgeon has a particular interest in diseases of the colon and rectum. To become proficient in the treatment and management of these digestive conditions, a colorectal surgeon must undergo training in both general surgeries as well as advanced training in the problems of the lower digestive tract. A colorectal surgeon might also sometimes be called a proctologist.

A colorectal surgeon may not always advise that surgery is the best course of action. Sometimes a surgeon is consulted to give a patient and their family more options or to help determine if it might be better to wait for surgery. If you are sent by a gastroenterologist to talk to a colorectal surgeon, it doesn't always mean that you are headed for surgery.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by conditions other than colorectal cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, or inflammatory bowel disease. Still, if you have any of these problems, it's important to see your healthcare provider right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Diagnosis

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) — This test checks for hidden blood in fecal material (stool).
  • Sigmoidoscopy — In this test, the rectum and lower colon are examined using a lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope. During sigmoidoscopy, precancerous and cancerous growths in the rectum and lower colon can be found and either removed or tested.
  • Colonoscopy — In this test, the rectum and entire colon are examined using a lighted instrument called a colonoscope. During colonoscopy, precancerous and cancerous growths throughout the colon can be found and either removed or tested.

Treatment

  • Surgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is the most common treatment for all stages of colon cancer.
  • Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
  • Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.