Sat | Mar 24, 2018

Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, beatable

Published:Wednesday | March 22, 2017 | 12:14 AMDr Nichole Grant
The human digestive system
The human digestive system
The human digestive system
Dr. Nichole Grant, Consultant Radiologist

Colorectal cancer is a malignant tumour that starts in cells of the colon or rectum. Malignant means it is a cancerous tumour that can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.




The colon and rectum are a part of our body's digestive system - together they are also known as the large bowel.

The colon reabsorbs large quantities of water and nutrients from undigested food products as they pass along it.

The rectum is at the end of the colon and stores faeces/stools before being expelled from the body.




- The large bowel is the third most common site for cancer in Jamaican men and women.

- There is an increasing incidence in the Caribbean, with 500 new cases each year.

- The American Cancer Society states that the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about one in 21 (4.7 per cent) for men and one in 23 (4.4 per cent) for women in their population.

For the majority of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer, they are already at an advanced stage of the cancer. For these patients, surgery is probably the most likely option.




Some of the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer that patients may experience include:

- Going to the toilet more often

- Diarrhea

- Constipation

- A feeling that the bowel does not empty properly after a bowel movement

- Blood in stools

- Pains in the abdomen

- Bloating in the abdomen

- A feeling of fullness in the abdomen (maybe even after not eating for a while)

- Vomiting

- Tiredness

- Weight loss

- A lump in the tummy or a lump in the back passage felt by your doctor

- Unexplained iron deficiency in men, or in women after menopause

Most (>95 per cent) colorectal cancers arise in polyps (small growths). These polyps, if found early, can be removed before they become cancerous.

Screening allows persons to know if they have these polyps. The commonly known option for colorectal cancer screening and diagnosis is optical colonoscopy. During this test, the patient is sedated and a camera/colonoscope is passed through the rectum and entire colon for evaluation. Patients have to be sedated during this procedure.

However, radiologists offer less invasive, affordable and quicker methods for evaluation of the colon. Radiologists are medical doctors that go on to specialise in imaging tests. They are the doctors that interpret x-ray, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, CT and MRI.

Radiologists can evaluate the colon using two modalities: Barium enema and CT Colonography/Virtual Colonoscopy.




A Barium Enema is an x-ray exam that can detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon).

An enema is the injection of a liquid into your rectum through a small tube. In this case, the liquid is barium, which coats the lining of the colon. This shows any masses or irregularity of the lining of the colon.

Barium enema benefits:

- Very Affordable

- No sedation required

- Less invasive




CT Colonography is a relatively new, non-invasive diagnostic test using X-rays from a CAT scan and computer software, to view 2D-3D images of the entire colon and rectum. The radiologist evaluates these images for the presence of polyps and/or colorectal cancer.

CT colonography benefits:

- Patients can resume normal activities immediately following the virtual colonoscopy

- No sedation required

- Gives information about other organs in the abdomen

- Avoids the discomfort and the small risk of bowel perforation that accompany colonoscope insertion

- Takes less time

- Less expensive

- Less invasive

- Visualises right colon (not well visualised in 10 per cent of optical colonoscopies)

- More comfortable than a conventional colonoscopy




- Long-term survival from colorectal cancer remains poor with only about 33 per cent of patients being alive five years after their diagnosis.

- Screening helps to find colorectal cancer or its precursor before any symptoms develop. When colorectal cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better.




- All men and women over 50 years of age.

- Persons with signs and symptoms suspicious for colorectal cancer.


It is important that we as Jamaicans take control of the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones. Stay informed...the life you save could be your own.

Contact your nearest radiology center ... . Speak to your radiologist ... . GET SCREENED TODAY!

- Dr Nichole Grant BSc, MBBS, DM, is a consultant radiologist at Radiology West; a member of Jamaica Association of Radiologists; email: