Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Endoscopy - Digestive Disorders

Colon Cancer Resource Center

WHAT IS COLON CANCER?
Colon, or colorectal, cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, early diagnosis often leads to a complete cure. Our goal at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is to empower our patients with the latest technological procedures to help detect and prevent colon cancer.
 
There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.

You have a higher risk for colon cancer if you:

  • Are older than 50
  • Are African American of eastern European descent
  • Eat a diet high in red or processed meats
  • Have cancer elsewhere in the body
  • Have colorectal polyps
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease
  • Have a family history of colon cancer
  • Have a personal history of breast cancer


Certain genetic syndromes also increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Two of the most common are:

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome


What you eat may play a role in your risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer may be associated with a high-fat low-fiber diet and red meat.

 
SYMPTOMS
Many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms. The following symptoms, however, may indicate colon cancer:

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other change in bowel habits
  • Narrow stools
  • Weight loss with no know reason

 
TESTS & PROCEDURES
With proper screening, colon cancer can be detected before symptoms develop, when it is most curable.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and press on your belly area. The physical exam rarely shows any problems, although the doctor may feel a lump (mass) in the abdomen. A rectal exam may reveal a mass in patients with rectal cancer, but not colon cancer.

A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) may detect small amounts of blood in the stool, which could suggest colon cancer. However, this test is often negative in patients with colon cancer. For this reason, a FOBT must be done along with colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. It is also important to note that a positive FOBT doesn't necessarily mean you have cancer.
 
Imaging tests to screen for and potentially diagnose colorectal cancer include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy


Blood tests that may be done include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia
  • Liver function tests


If your doctor learns that you do have colorectal cancer, more tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. CT or MRI scans of the abdomen, pelvic area, chest, or brain may be used to stage the cancer. Sometimes, PET scans are also used.

Stages of colon cancer are:

  • Stage 0: Very early cancer on the innermost layer of the intestine
  • Stage I: Cancer is in the inner layers of the colon
  • Stage II: Cancer has spread through the muscle wall of the colon
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other organs


Blood tests to detect tumor markers, including carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9, may help your physician follow you during and after treatment.
 
Don’t Be Afraid of Colorectal Cancer Screening
 
TREATMENT
Treatment depends partly on the stage of the cancer. In general, treatments may include:

  • Surgery (most often a colostomy) to remove cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy to destroy cancerous tissue


SURGERY
Stage 0 colon cancer may be treated by removing the cancer cells, often during a colonoscopy. For stages I, II, and III cancer, more extensive surgery is needed to remove the part of the colon that is cancerous.
There is some debate as to whether patients with stage II colon cancer should receive chemotherapy after surgery. You should discuss this with your oncologist.
 
CHEMOTHERAPY
Almost all patients with stage III colon cancer should receive chemotherapy after surgery for approximately 6 - 8 months.
Chemotherapy is also used to improve symptoms and prolong survival in patients with stage IV colon cancer.
 
RADIATION
Although radiation therapy is occasionally used in patients with colon cancer, it is usually used in combination with chemotherapy for patients with stage III rectal cancer.

For patients with stage IV disease that has spread to the liver, various treatments directed specifically at the liver can be used. This may include:

  • Burning the cancer (ablation)
  • Delivering chemotherapy or radiation directly into the liver
  • Freezing the cancer (cryotherapy)
  • Surgery

 
PREVENTION
The death rate for colon cancer has dropped in the last 15 years. This may be due to increased awareness and screening by colonoscopy.
 
Colon cancer can almost always be caught by colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. Almost all men and women age 50 and older should have a colon cancer screening. Patients at risk may need earlier screening.
 
Colon cancer screening can often find polyps before they become cancerous. Removing these polyps may prevent colon cancer.
 
Changing your diet and lifestyle is important. Some evidence suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce your risk of colon cancer.

Colon Cancer Center

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

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Doctors Hospital at Renaissance proudly meets the federal definition of a “physician-owned hospital” (42 CFR § 489.3). As required by law, a list of the hospital’s physician owners and investors is available at www.dhr-rgv.com. DHR, Ltd. and its affiliated entities comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.