Colorectal Cancer Program

Glossary of Terms

Abscess - A pus-filled cavity caused by bacteria invading a mucus-secreting gland in the anus and rectum.

Adenoma - Non-cancerous polyps that are considered precursors to colon and rectal cancer.

Anal Fissure - A split or crack in the lining of the anal opening, often caused by very hard or watery stools.

Anal Sphincter - The muscular outlet of the rectum consisting of two muscles that control bowel movements.

Anemia - A condition where there is a lower than normal number of red blood cells.

Anorectal Manometry - A procedure which measures pressures in the anal canal.

Anoscopy - A procedure that examines the anus with a short scope to look for hemorrhoids, anal polyps, fissures or fistulae.

Anus - The opening of the rectum in the fold between the buttocks and at the end of the digestive tract where bodily waste is eliminated.

Carcinogens - Cancer-causing substances.

Chemotherapy - Treatment using anti-cancer drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Clinical Trial - A research study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a new medical treatment, drug or device.

Colon - The last six feet of the intestine, commonly referred to as the large intestine or large bowel.

Colon Cancer - A malignant tumor stemming from the inner wall of the large intestine.

Colon Polyps - Small growths on the inner colon lining that may or may not develop into cancer, depending on the types of polyps.

Constipation - Incomplete, infrequent or difficult passage of stools, commonly caused by lack of fiber in the diet. Other causes include disruption of routine diet and overuse of laxatives.

Crohn's Disease - A chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in all layers of the intestinal wall, mainly affecting the lower part of the small intestine and disrupting the normal function of the bowel.

Electromyography - A test that examines the health of the muscles and the nerves controlling the muscles.

Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - A hereditary colon cancer syndrome caused by inherited mutations in the APC gene. It is characterized by the formation of hundreds to thousands of polyps in the colon at a young age, which substantially increases the risk for colon cancer. There is also a risk for duodenal cancer, thyroid cancer, early childhood liver cancer, gastric polyps and cancer, and desmoid tumors. Another form of this syndrome, Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, is when individuals are found to have 20-100 polyps. The risks for other cancers are the same as above.

Fecal Occult Blood Screening - A test for blood (not visible to the naked eye) in the stool.

Fecal Incontinence - Involuntary loss of stool from the anus. A difficulty controlling gas or stool.

Fistula - Abnormal connection that forms between two different parts of the intestine, rectum and the skin, or the intestine and the bladder or vagina.

Hemorrhoid - Swollen blood vessel which lines the anal opening.

Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer - A hereditary colon cancer syndrome caused by inherited gene mutations. This syndrome is characterized by early onset colorectal cancer, as well as cancers of the uterus, ovaries, renal pelvis, upper GI tract, and pancreato-biliary tract.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) - Diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis that cause inflammation of the bowel.

J Pouch - A reservoir created out of small intestine after removal of the colon and portions of the rectum. This internal pouch holds fecal material (stool) before elimination through the anus.

Laparoscopy-An examination of the abdominal cavity using a scope. Laparoscopy is generally performed under anesthesia. A small in incision is made, usually in the navel, through which the scope is passed into the abdomen. This procedure gives doctors the ability to more closely examine and/or repair abnormalities.

Ostomy-An opening, created by surgery, in the abdominal wall from which waste (stool/fecal material) is eliminated (requiring an external pouch). There are generally two types of ostomies. A colostomy is when an opening is created between the colon and the abdominal wall. An ileostomy is when an opening is created between the lowest portion of the small intestine and the abdominal wall. An ostomy may be performed to treat cancer, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis.

Polyposis - A condition characterized by numerous polyps.

Polyps - See Colon Polyps above.

Radiation Therapy - A form of cancer treatment using high levels of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent their growth.

Rectal - Of or pertaining to the rectum, which is an area that connects the colon to the anus.

Rectum - The last eight inches of the large intestine; connects the colon to the anus.

Ulcerative Colitis - A disease where sores, or ulcers, form in the top layers of the lining of the large intestine. Inflammation usually occurs in the lower part of the colon and rectum.