March 9, 2021

Understanding Your Colon Pathology Report

Understanding Your Colon Pathology Report

Your colon pathology report provides a lot of useful information, especially if the report shows that cancer is present. It gives your oncologist more details about the specific type of colon cancer which leads to a personalized treatment plan based on the available data.

However, these reports are packed full of medical jargon that may be overwhelming or difficult to understand. The Cancer Care Centers of Brevard team is dedicated to making sure that you have a clear understanding of your diagnosis, including what was found during a colonoscopy and biopsy. We’ve put together a type of “cheat sheet” to make it easier to understand a complicated colon pathology report. Of course, our staff is also available to answer any other questions you may have about your report or treatment plan.

What is a Colon Pathology Report?

A colon pathology report is put together by a doctor known as a pathologist. Pathologists specialize in diagnosing diseases by reviewing tissue that is removed from your body. They put their findings into a report and give it to your doctor. If cancer is found in the report, your oncologist will also need to review this important data. You will also be given a copy of the pathology report for your personal records.

Common Terms in Colon Pathology Reports

Colon pathology reports contain a number of words that are usually only familiar to people in the medical community. Several words may be repeated throughout your pathology report, and we’d like to share a brief definition of what those terms mean.

  • Cecum is the beginning of the colon.
  • Ascending colon, descending colon, and sigmoid colon are all parts of the colon that are after the cecum.
  • The rectum is where your body’s waste is stored until it is emptied through the anus, also known as a bowel movement.
  • Mucin is a lubricant that is produced by the colon. Some types of colon cancers produce a large amount of mucin, and those types of cancers are called mucinous or colloid adenocarcinomas.
  • Polyps are growths found in the lining of the colon. While polyps are considered non-cancerous, some types of polyps can develop into cancer.
  • Invasive or infiltrating are terms to describe cancer that has spread beyond the lining of the colon.
  • Differentiation refers to the grade of cancer and explains how abnormal the cells look.

More About Colon Cancer Grade

The colon pathology report is going to give the oncologist information that allows them to assign a grade to the cancer. The grade impacts the types of treatments that may be needed.

Higher grade and poorly differentiated cancer usually spreads faster. There are three colon cancer grades:

  • Well-differentiated (low grade) typically look more like normal cells and spread more slowly than poorly differentiated cancer cells.
  • Moderately differentiated (intermediate grade) cells appear somewhat abnormal.
  • Poorly differentiated (high grade) don’t look like healthy cells and look disorganized under a microscope. Poorly differentiated cancer cells spread faster than other grades.

Understanding Types of Polyps

Your pathology report may discuss other types of polyps found in the colon.

  • Hyperplastic polyps are usually noncancerous (benign) and don’t necessarily need to be removed.
  • Adenomatous polyps (adenomas) will require removal because they can develop into cancer later.

Genetics of Colorectal Cancer

Most gene mutations in colorectal cancers are not considered hereditary, meaning that it isn't passed down from one family member to another. Research indicates that an inherited gene mutation causes only about 5% of all colorectal cancers. The remaining 95% are caused by a mutation of a gene acquired during a person's lifetime (non-genetic).

MSI, MSH2, MSH6, MLH1, PMS2 Testing

As part of your pathology report, other tests may show an abnormality in the cancer cells known as microsatellite instability (MSI). If this comes up on your pathology report, then your doctor may want additional genetic testing to see if you have a test positive for Lynch Syndrome. Lynch Syndrome puts you at higher risk for colon cancer and other types of cancer. Knowing the results of these tests will determine the type of treatment you receive and how aggressive it should be.

Understanding KRAS, NRAS, BRAF Genes

Your report may make reference to tests that take a closer look at the changes in the KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF genes. These changes are known as gene mutations. These types of tests are usually done for people who have advanced colon cancer. Knowing the results of these tests helps your doctor determine which type of treatment plan is right for you.

What to Do if You Have More Questions About Your Colon Pathology Report

Even with helpful tips for understanding your colon pathology report, it’s common for people to still have questions. If you are having trouble understanding any part of your report, reach out to your oncologist to learn more. And feel free to ask a lot of questions while you’re at your appointment.

Contact Us For a Second Opinion

Cancer Care Centers of Brevard is dedicated to making sure that you know the ins and out of your pathology reports. You should be comfortable with the communication you have with your cancer care team. If you have a pathology report for colon or rectal cancer diagnosis but don’t feel as though you understand what it means, you can consider a second opinion with our oncologists. These appointments are usually covered by your insurance. We are happy to answer additional questions you may have and provide the peace of mind that you deserve. Contact the location nearest you in Brevard County to request an appointment.

Categories: Colorectal Cancer