Understanding Colorectal Disease

Nearly everyone struggles with a digestive condition at some point in life. But there are certain colorectal conditions that do not resolve on their own and instead require treatment from a specialist. 

Every year, gastroenterologists, general surgeons and colorectal surgeons at Beaumont treat thousands of patients with colorectal diseases, including: 
  • colon and rectal cancer
  • anal cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • diverticular disease
  • fecal incontinence
  • fistuli
  • fissures
  • polyps and polyposis diseases
  • rectal prolapse
It's important to understand how the colon works so you can better understand the types of colorectal diseases that can develop.

Anatomy of the Colon

The large intestine, or colon, has four sections:

  • ascending colon
  • transverse colon
  • descending colon
  • sigmoid colon

The Role of the Colon in Digestion

After your stomach breaks down the food you have eaten, the now mostly liquid food and digestive fluids produced by your body enter the small intestines. These loops of the intestines work to absorb nutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

The leftover waste, water and some minerals that have not been absorbed enter the colon. From here, the colon’s main function is to move the waste to the rectum while absorbing the water and minerals. The waste moves through the curves of the colon before being stored in the rectum. Your body expels the waste when you use the restroom.

Colorectal Disease Symptoms

When you have a disease or a problem in your colon, the colon can lose its ability to work properly, leading to changes in your bowel habits: this means you may experience watery or loose bowel movements (diarrhea), fewer bowel movements (constipation) or a combination of both. You may also feel pain or cramping, have a fever or experience bleeding or jaundice.

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