Colon Cancer

At Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, experts who specialize in treating colon cancer work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients diagnosed with this cancer. Our center provides individualized cancer care that is rooted in the latest diagnostic and treatment tools. Colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and women, but it is a very treatable disease, particularly through surgery. Survival rates for colon cancer continue to increase, in large part thanks to advanced screening programs and treatments.

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the colon, which is part of the large intestine. Colon cancer often begins as non-cancerous growths (or polyps) that form on the inner lining of the colon. Over time, some polyps can become malignant (cancerous) when cells start growing abnormally, invading more of the colon and rectum.

The colon, the longest part of the large intestine, is part of the digestive system and removes water and some nutrients and electrolytes from partially-digested food. The remaining material, solid waste called stool, moves through the colon, is stored in the rectum, and leaves the body through the anus.

Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers thanks to screening. Several screening methods, such as the colonoscopy, make it possible to detect some colon cancers before symptoms appear. Colon cancer occurs equally among men and women, and it is a highly treatable, often curable disease.

Nearly all colon cancers are adenocarcinomas, which is a cancer that starts in the lining of internal organs. The tumors start in gland cells that release fluids. Other very rare types of colon cancer include gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), lymphomas, carcinoid tumors, small cell carcinomas and sarcomas. Given that the vast majority of colon cancers are adenocarcinomas, the information discussed— from associated risk factors to treatment options — is centered on this type of cancer. Learn more about colon cancer.

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