The Benefits of Genetic Counseling

About Colorectal Cancer

Making a Difference for Patients with Colon Cancer

You don't have to travel far for excellent colorectal cancer care. Our team of board-certified and specially-trained physicians, nurses and other cancer specialists meet regularly to evaluate cases and develop the most effective treatment strategies. Patients have access to cutting-edge clinical trials and minimally invasive procedures such as endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS) and Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography (PET/CT).

Fast Facts

In both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed type of cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death. The majority of these cases can be prevented by using existing prevention knowledge and by increasing the use of screening tests. Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in the colon (large intestine) or rectum. Anyone can get colorectal cancer, but the vast majority of cases occur in people age 50 and older. In addition, those with a family history of the disease, those who are obese or consume high-fat diets or high amounts of alcohol are at greater risk for colorectal cancer.


Early colorectal cancer has no symptoms, which is why screening is so important. It most often starts as a polyp (small growth) in the intestine. Patients should see their doctors if they experience any later symptoms of colorectal cancer such as bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool, sudden anemia, cramping in the lower stomach, fatigue, vomiting, or sudden weight loss.

Diagnosis and Staging

Colorectal cancer is diagnosed through physical exams, x-rays, colonoscopies, biopsies and several other tests. The extent of the disease is also determined through these tests, as well as blood tests, ultrasounds or sometimes CT scans. Once the cancer is properly staged, physicians and patients can develop the best course of treatment.


Surgery is the most common form of treatment if cancer hasn't spread to other areas. Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used in conjunction with surgery. Treatment options depend on the stage of cancer, previous treatments conducted and the patient's overall health.

Colorectal Cancer FAQs

Colorectal Cancer FAQ

Colorectal Facts, Symptoms and Treatment

What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women. Every year, more than 130,000 new patients are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 colon cancer-related deaths occur. Colorectal cancer begins in either the colon or the rectum. Both are part of the digestive tract, also called the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. This is where food is processed to create energy and rid the body of waste.

How does colorectal cancer develop?
Colorectal cancer occurs when the cells that line the colon (also called the large intestine or large bowel) or the rectum (lower portion of the colon) become abnormal and grow out of control. Unfortunately, many colorectal cancers are "silent" tumors until they are advanced and produce symptoms. However, through regular screenings, colorectal cancer is preventable, and curable, if detected early.

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?
With more than 90 percent of cases diagnosed in individuals over the age of 50, the primary risk factor for colorectal cancer is age. A personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease also increases your risk. Other risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

· Excessive alcohol consumption
· Obesity
· Physical inactivity
· High-fat and/or low-fiber diet

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
In its early stages, colorectal cancer usually causes no symptoms. For this reason, it is very important to have regular colorectal cancer prevention examinations, or screenings. When symptoms are present, the cancer may still be curable if not ignored. One of the signs of colon cancer may be rectal bleeding. Often tumors bleed only small amounts intermittently, and evidence of the blood is found only during chemical testing of the stool. This is called occult bleeding—it is not always visible to the naked eye. When tumors have grown larger, other symptoms may develop. The symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

· Change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
· Blood on or in the stool
· Unexplained anemia
· Unusual abdominal or gas pain
· Unexplained weight loss
· Fatigue
· Vomiting

Rectal bleeding should not be presumed to be hemorrhoids until other causes are ruled out. People with unexplained rectal bleeding should make an appointment for a colorectal cancer screening.

Can I protect myself from colorectal cancer?
To work toward cancer prevention, you can choose to live a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber, vegetables and fruit.

Going to the doctor so he or she can check the colon for polyps and cancer is the next important step. Screening recommendations depend upon an individual's risk of colorectal cancer. The goal is to identify people at high risk of developing colon cancer and screen them earlier than the general population.

What are the types of colorectal cancer screenings I can receive?

Fecal Occult Blood Test - A test that is used to check for blood in the stool. Cancers or polyps can bleed, and this test is used to detect small amounts of bleeding.

Digital rectal exam - An exam in which the doctor feels for abnormal areas by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum.

Sigmoidoscopy - An examination of the lower colon and rectum using a lighted instrument called a sigmoid scope.

Double Contrast Barium Enema - An X-ray series of the colon and rectum. The enema is given with a solution that contains barium that outlines the colon and rectum on X-rays.

Colonoscopy - An examination of the rectum and the entire colon using a lighted instrument called a colonoscope.

When should I get screened for colorectal cancer?
The FHCI recommends the following to individuals that are 50 years old or older without any symptoms and no first degree relatives with colorectal cancer:
· Baseline colonoscopy at age 50
· Fecal occult blood test performed once a year beginning at age 50
· Flexible sigmoidoscopy performed every five years beginning at age 50
· Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) every five years, or colonoscopy  
  every 10 years starting at age 50

Talk to your primary care physician about your risk factors or to schedule a screening test. Talk to your family to see if anyone has had polyps or cancer in the colon, rectum, uterus, breast or any gland.

How is colorectal cancer treated?
If cancer is found, the FHCI has developed a comprehensive program with a multidisciplinary approach to providing the best care for patients with colorectal cancer. Colon cancer can be treated by surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy – or a combination of all these modalities.