Resource Center

Glossary

A-B C-D E-G H-K L-O P-R S-T U-Z

A-B

Abscess

A collection of pus caused by infection that can cause swelling and damage to nearby tissue.

Adenomatous Polyps

An adenoma is a benign tumor that develops from epithelial tissue. Adenomas in the colon are often referred to as adenomatous polyps. These polyps can develop into cancer.

Anastomosis

The connection of normally separate structures, such as the joining of two parts of the intestine. Healthy parts of the colon can be connected after the diseased portion has been removed.

Anemia

Having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, therefore, decreased.

Anticholinergic Medications

A substance that blocks acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter in the nervous system. In the colon, this medication slows the activity of the stomach and intestinal tract, to help relieve cramping and reduce acid secretion.

Antispasmodics

Medications that relieve or prevent spasms, especially of smooth muscle. In colon conditions, these medications relieve muscle spasms of the stomach, intestine or bladder.

Anus

The opening of the rectum to the outside of the body, through which solid waste is eliminated.

Ascending Colon

The part of the large intestine ascending from the cecum to the transverse colon.

Barium Enema

A screening test that uses barium to help providers evaluate the large intestine with an x-ray. Barium is placed in the bowel using an enema. The barium coats the lining of the intestine, creating a silhouette of the rectum, colon and a portion of the small intestine.

Biopsy

A procedure in which a sample of tissue such as skin, bone, organs and other soft tissues are removed for examination.

Bowel Diversion Surgery

Procedures in which surgically created openings in the abdominal wall are made. These openings alter the normal route for elimination of feces. Colostomy and ileostomy are examples of bowel diversion surgeries.

Bowel Movement

The discharge of waste from the large intestine.

Bowel Prep

A process that causes frequent bowel movements to cleanse the colon of fecal matter and secretions. This allows providers a better view of the colon lining during colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy.

C-D

Capsule Endoscopy

A procedure used to examine the entire length of the small intestine and often used to diagnose Crohn’s disease. The patient swallows a capsule that contains a camera. The camera takes pictures inside the digestive tract, which are transmitted to a computer worn on the patient’s belt. The images are then downloaded, displayed on a monitor and checked for signs of Crohn's disease. After the camera travels through the digestive system, it exits the body painlessly in the stool.

Cecum

The portion of the colon just after the small intestine.

Chemotherapy

The use of special drugs designed to destroy cancer cells. In colorectal cancer, chemotherapy is often used after surgery to control tumor growth or to relieve symptoms.

Chyme

Partially digested food.

Claustrophobic

Having an abnormal fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces.

Colectomy

Colon resection surgery designed to remove part or all of the large intestine.

Colon

The part of the large intestine that runs from the cecum to the rectum. The colon’s job is to remove water, nutrients and salt from the partially digested food that passes into the colon from the small intestine.

Colon Cancer

Cancer of the large intestine, or colon.

Colon Polyp

A mass of tissue that develops on the inside wall of the colon.

Colon Resection

A surgical procedure, often referred to as colectomy, designed to remove part or all of the large intestine.

Colonoscope

A long, flexible, lighted tube used for a colonoscopy. A small camera is mounted on the scope and transmits a video image from inside the large intestine onto a computer monitor, allowing the provider to carefully examine the intestinal lining.

Colonoscopy

A screening test that allows providers to detect abnormalities in the colon and rectum, including inflamed tissue, ulcers, bleeding, and abnormal growths, called polyps. During a colonoscopy, a scope is inserted into the patient’s anus, and slowly moved through the colon. A camera at the end of the tube is connected to a computer and monitor.

Colorectal Cancer

Cancer of the colon and rectum.

Colostomy

A procedure where the provider creates a small opening in the abdomen called an ostomy, and attaches the end of the colon to it, which is then called a stoma. Waste will travel through the small intestine and exit the body through the stoma. The stoma is about the size of a quarter and is usually located in the lower-right part of the abdomen near the beltline. A pouch is worn over the opening to collect waste, and the patient empties the pouch as needed.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A blood test used to evaluate overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia and infection. The test measures several components of the blood.

Computerized Tomography (CT)

A noninvasive imaging technique that produces cross-sectional images of the body. Before a CT scan, a contrast material is often administered to the patient, either orally or intravenously. This material makes the internal organs more visible during the test and can help the provider locate irregularities in the colon and other organs.

Crohn’s Disease

An autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive system, and can affect any area from the mouth to the anus.

Descending Colon

The part of the large intestine that descends from the transverse colon to the sigmoid colon.

Diarrhea

Increased frequency of or unusually liquid bowel movements. Stools that are liquid or watery are always abnormal and considered diarrheal.

Digestive System

The organs responsible for processing food into and out of the body and turning it into energy. These organs include the salivary glands, the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, colon, rectum, and anus.

Digital Rectal Exam

An examination of the lower rectum. The provider uses a gloved, lubricated finger to detect tenderness, blockage, or blood.

Diverticula

Pockets of tissue, or pouches, that push out from weakened areas of the colon walls.

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease is made up of two conditions: diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis occurs when pouches, called diverticula, form in the colon. Diverticulitis occurs if the pouches become inflamed.

Diverticulitis

A condition where diverticula, or pouches, become inflamed and infected. The inflammation may begin when bacteria or stool are caught in the diverticula, which can lead to infection.

Diverticulosis

The condition of having diverticula in the colon.

E-G

Endoscope

A long, flexible, lighted instrument used to examine the colon, bladder, or stomach.

Enema

The insertion of a solution into the rectum and lower intestine to stimulate bowel activity.

Familial Adenomatous Polyposis

An inherited condition in which numerous polyps form on the inside walls of the colon and rectum. This condition increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

Fecal Immunohistochemical Test (FIT)

A test used to detect hidden blood in the stool.

Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

A test used to detect hidden blood in the stool.

Feces

Also known as stool. Waste matter that is eliminated from the bowels.

Fistula

An abnormal passageway or tunnel between two organs in the body or between an organ and the exterior of the body.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A procedure used to see inside the lower third of the colon, called the sigmoid colon, and the rectum. It can detect inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, and ulcers. The procedure is used to look for early signs of cancer and can help providers diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus, and weight loss.

Gastrointestinal Tract

The organs responsible for processing food into and out of the body and turning it into energy. These organs include the salivary glands, the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, colon, rectum, and anus.

Gut Flora

Intestinal microorganisms that aid in digestion.

H-K

Hematocrit

The proportion of the blood that consists of packed red blood cells.

Hemicolectomy

A type of colectomy surgery that involves the removal of half the colon.

Hemoglobin

The oxygen-carrying component in red blood cells.

Hemorrhoids

A swelling of a vein causing an itching or painful mass in anal tissue either internally or externally.

Hyperplastic Polyps

Noncancerous polyps.

Ileoanal Anastomosis

A procedure, also called a pull-through operation, that allows the patient to have normal bowel movements because it preserves part of the anus. In this procedure, the provider removes the colon and the inside of the rectum, leaving the outer muscles of the rectum. The provider then attaches the end of the small intestine, called the ileum, to the inside of the rectum and the anus, creating a pouch. This pouch is connected to the anal canal. Waste is stored in the pouch and passes through the anus in the usual manner.

Ileostomy

A procedure similar to colostomy, although it involves the small intestine, rather than the colon. During an ileostomy, the provider creates a small opening in the abdomen called an ostomy, and attaches the end of the small intestine, called the ileum, to it, creating a stoma.

Ileum

The last segment of the small intestine.

Immune System Suppressors

Also known as immunosuppressants. These drugs suppress the body’s immune response.

Immunosuppressants

Also known as immune system suppressors. These drugs suppress the body’s immune response.

Intestinal Obstruction

A partial or total blockage of the intestine.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Often called IBS, this is a condition that affects the colon, or large intestine. It can cause abdominal cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and other changes in bowel habits.

L-O

Laparoscopic Surgery

A technique that allows surgery to be performed without a traditional incision. By using multiple small incisions, each a few centimeters long, the surgeon inserts instruments including a tiny camera. The camera allows the surgeon to visualize the surgery on a monitor.

Laparoscopic-Assisted Colectomy

A procedure where part of the colon and nearby lymph nodes are removed through small incisions in the abdomen.

Large Intestine

The wide, lower section of the intestine that extends from the end of the small intestine to the anus. Also called the colon.

Local Excision

Surgery to remove tissue or a tumor from a specific area of the body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A test that uses powerful magnets to take hundreds of cross-sectional pictures. A computer then puts the pictures together to form whole images of internal organs. MRIs are used to detect abnormalities in the colon and other parts of the body.

Masses

Abnormal tissue growths.

Metastasis

The spread of cancer from its primary site to other areas of the body.

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

A type of targeted therapy being studied in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Monoclonal antibody therapy uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion and may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer

An inherited disorder in which affected individuals have a higher-than-normal chance of developing colorectal cancer and certain other types of cancer, often before the age of 50. Also called hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer and Lynch syndrome.

Osteoporosis

A skeletal disease occurring especially in women following menopause in which the bones become extremely porous, are subject to fracture, and heal slowly, often leading to the curvature of the spine from vertebral collapse.

Ostomy

A surgical procedure creating a new opening in the abdomen for the discharge of body wastes.

P-R

Partial Colectomy

A type of colectomy surgery where a specific section of the colon is removed.

Perforation

A puncture or a tear. Perforation of the colon can occur during or after a colonoscopy but is generally associated with biopsy or polyp removal.

Peristalsis

Wave like muscular contraction. In the colon, peristalsis forces material through the digestive system.

Peritonitis

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the membrane, known as the peritoneum, which lines the inside of the abdomen and all of the internal organs. Peritonitis may occur when bacteria leaks out of the colon through a perforation. A person with peritonitis usually experiences nausea, vomiting, fever, and severe abdominal tenderness. The condition almost always requires immediate surgery to clean the abdominal cavity and remove the damaged part of the colon.

Platelet

A disc-shaped element in the blood that assists in blood clotting. During normal blood clotting, the platelets clump together.

Polypectomy

Removal of a polyp.

Polyp

A mass of tissue that develops on the inside wall of a hollow organ.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan)

A highly specialized imaging technique that uses short-lived radioactive substances to produce three-dimensional colored images of those substances functioning within the body.

Probiotics

Live microorganisms, in most cases bacteria, that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms that are found in the human digestive system. They are also called "friendly bacteria" or "good bacteria."

Proctocolectomy

A type of colectomy surgery involving the removal of the colon, anus, and rectum.

Radiation

A cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keeps them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

Rectal Bleeding

Bleeding from the rectum.

Rectal Cancer

Cancer of the last several inches of the colon, called the rectum.

Rectum

The last several inches of the colon where stool is stored until it’s passed during a bowel movement.

Regional Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy used to treat a specific area of the body. Regional chemotherapy drugs can be placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen.

Resection

Surgical removal of an organ. Surgery to remove all or part of the large bowel is called a bowel resection or colectomy.

Rome Criteria

A diagnostic criteria for IBS and other functional gastro-intestinal disorders based on the patient’s history, signs, and symptoms.

S-T

Sigmoid Colon

The S-shaped portion of the colon.

Sigmoidoscope

A slender, lighted tube to examine the rectum and sigmoid colon.

Sigmoidoscopy

A procedure, also called a flexible sigmoidoscopy, used to see inside the lower third of the colon, called the sigmoid colon, and the rectum. Flexible sigmoidoscopy can detect inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, and ulcers. The procedure is used to look for early signs of cancer and can help providers diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus, and weight loss.

Small Bowel

The small intestine.

Small Intestine

The small bowel.

Snare

A wire loop used to remove a polyp. The loop is tightened and electrical current can be applied to sever the polyp at its base.

Staging

Determining the extent or severity of cancer. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the provider develop a treatment plan and establish a prognosis.

Stoma

An opening in the body made by a surgeon.

Stool

The waste that remains after water and nutrients are absorbed during digestion.

Systemic Chemotherapy

Treatment with anticancer drugs that travel through the blood to cells throughout the body.

Targeted Therapy

A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy being studied in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Transverse Colon

The part of the large intestine that extends across the abdominal cavity and joins the ascending to the descending colon.

U-Z

Ulcerative Colitis

A condition that causes inflammation, called ulcers, in the lining of the rectum and colon.

Ulcers

A lesion of the skin or of a mucous membrane such as the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine.

Virtual Colonoscopy

A screening examination in which x-rays obtained by CT scan are used to generate computerized three-dimensional images of the inside of the colon.