Colon cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the large intestine, also called the large bowel or colon. According to the American Cancer Society, over 95,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. The exact cause of colon cancer is unknown, but most of these cancers begin as non-cancerous growths or polyps. Over time, polyps can become colon cancer. The most common type of colon cancer is adenocarcinoma.
Not everyone experiences colon cancer symptoms, so it is important that men and women over age 50 have screening tests such as a colonoscopy. Colon polyps can be identified and removed during colonoscopy (polypectomy), preventing polyps from becoming colon cancer. Surgery to remove cancerous tissue is the preferred treatment for all stages of colon cancer and can usually cure colon cancer when found early. Some patients increase their chances of being cured by receiving additional therapy, such as chemotherapy.
Colon and rectal surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are the surgical team for the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), a unique center uniting the world’s best gastrointestinal cancer experts. Our board certified surgeons are leaders in colon cancer surgery, performing a large volume of colonoscopies as well as traditional and minimally invasive surgical techniques, including colectomy and colostomy.
Factors that contribute to an increased risk for colon cancer include:
Colon cancer often is in a more advanced stage when symptoms present. Common symptoms are:
Beginning at age 50, men and women should follow one of these examination schedules:
People with colorectal cancer risk factors should begin screening procedures at an earlier age and/or be screened more often.
If you are having symptoms of colon cancer, your surgeon will ask about your health history, your family’s history of cancer and risk factors. Diagnostic test include many of the same exams done for people without symptoms:
After colon cancer has been diagnosed, tests are performed to find out if cancer cells have spread within the colon or to other parts of the body.
The segment of colon that contains cancer is surgically removed and the remaining ends of the bowel are reattached so that bowel integrity is maintained. Our colon and rectal surgeons may use one of the following surgical procedures:
You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have colon cancer and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced colon and rectal surgeon are important to the successful outcome for patients with colon cancer.
If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.
The day of surgery, you will be cared for in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with colon cancer. After surgery, you will recover in the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.
The Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center, at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center provides the world’s most advanced and innovative multidisciplinary care for patients with gastrointestinal diseases, including colon cancer. Our treatment team includes colon and rectal surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, nutritionists, pathologists, anesthesiologists and gastroenterologists. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.
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