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Colon Cancer

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Colon cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in both men and women in the United States, often made more frightening by its lack of symptoms in the early stages.

This is because colorectal cancers – cancers of the colon and rectum – are slow growing and can take many years to begin to produce any symptoms. Colon cancer begins with small clumps that develop called polyps. But not all polyps develop into cancer.

Non-cancerous polyps are called hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps. Pre-cancerous polyps are called adenomatous polyps. However, no matter what type of polyps are discovered during an examination or colonoscopy, they will be given great attention by the doctor as even non pre-cancerous polyps can signify the potential of future cancer growth.

Screenings are most important because of the lack of symptoms associated with polyps.

If colon cancer is present, however, there will eventually be a development of symptoms including cramping, abdominal pain, gas, blood in the stool, and more.

Routine Screening

Screening for colon cancer may include a barium enema, a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a stool blood test, and a colonoscopy.

Screenings every year are recommended starting at age 50 although if certain risk factors are identified, more regular screenings may be advised. Risk factors include age, diet, lack of exercise, inflammatory intestinal conditions, a history of smoking, a history of polyps or colon cancer, inherited syndromes, family history of polyps or colon cancer, diabetes, heavy intake of alcohol, and more.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Regular screenings can identify the presence of colon cancer after which your doctor will determine the stage of your cancer – from stage 0 when the cancer is contained in the inner layer of the colon or rectum to stage 4 when cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment will be determined based on the stage of cancer and may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, or a combination of treatments.

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