Colon cancer involves malignant cells found in the colon, or large intestine of the digestive system. Colon cancer along with rectal cancer (cancer found in the last several inches of the colon) are often referred to collectively as colorectal cancer. Colon cancer is the third most common form of cancer found in both men and women.
The risk factors for colorectal cancer — which include age, family history of the disease, or having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — are also similar for men and women. However, some lifestyle choices can also increase risk. These include obesity, lack of physical activity, low vitamin D, and consuming a high amount of red meat, which may differ between men and women. Both men and women should be screened for colorectal cancer by age 50. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should get a colonoscopy even sooner — at age 40 or earlier — and some medical experts recommend that African-Americans start screening at age 45.
Colon cancer surgery is one of several colorectal cancer treatment options available to patients. If colon cancer is discovered early through a colonoscopy, doctors may perform a polypectomy surgery to remove any cancerous polyps. If the cancer is identified at a later stage, surgery may involve a resection, where the diseased section of the colon is removed and the remaining healthy pieces reconnected to form one long healthy organ again. Colon cancer surgery may also involve an ostomy, where the diseased portion of the intestines is bypassed.
For patients requiring colon cancer treatment, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Brigham and Women's Hospital provides the latest in clinical care, as well as a wide range of resources to support patients and their families during the treatment and cancer surgery process.
Colon cancer surgery at the Brigham and Women's Hospital
Brigham and Women's offers the most advanced treatments for gastrointestinal cancers. A team of specialists – including oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists – works with to tailor treatment to each individual's needs.
Because a cancer diagnosis and colorectal cancer surgery can be both physically and emotionally challenging, a wide variety of support services is provided to patients and their families, including nutritional counseling, access to support groups, and integrative therapies like acupuncture and Reiki. The program also provides risk assessments and advice on screening for people with a family history of gastrointestinal cancer, to help prevent colon cancer or to increase the chances of early detection.
Clinical trials in colon cancer therapies offer an alternative to surgery
Researchers and scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital are involved in a variety of research studies at the national and international level, focusing on the molecular structure of various gastrointestinal cancers. Through involvement in these studies, we are able to offer patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials that may provide health benefits to the patient, as well helping to advance the fight again gastrointestinal cancer.