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Colorectal cancer

When polyps in the lower digestive tract (the colon and rectum) become cancerous. this is called colorectal cancer. It is often treated with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Colonoscopy screenings identify potential polyps and help you get treated sooner and more effectively.

Compassionate colorectal cancer care

You deserve the support and guidance of our experienced colorectal surgeons.

We understand the discomfort and frustration that can accompany colorectal issues. At Mission Health hospitals, our colon and rectal specialists demonstrate the importance of colorectal cancer detection and prevention, and work with you to get you to better health.

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer

In its early stages, colorectal cancer does not typically cause symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, some symptoms may begin to occur, including:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Change in bowel movements
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the belly
  • Unexplained weight loss

Services and treatments for colon and rectal cancer

We want you to feel comfortable seeking care and assistance during treatment and testing for colorectal cancer. Our hospitals are staffed with experienced, compassionate specialists who are there to make you feel at ease.

Risks for colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States. While there is no single cause of the disease, it typically originates in either the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). Most cases begin as polyps, which are small noncancerous growths inside the colon or rectum. Both precancerous and adenomatous polyps are common, with 25 percent of people over the age of 50 developing them. Over time, some polyps can slowly turn into cancer.

You may have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer if any of the following apply to you:

  • Active smoker
  • African American or Eastern European descent
  • Eat high amounts of red or processed meats
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Lack physical activity
  • Older than 60
  • Regularly drink alcohol

Colorectal cancer screening and diagnosis

As symptoms often do not show up until the cancer is advanced, regular colon cancer screening is important for early detection, when it is most treatable. Some say that adults should start regular screening at age 50, but your doctor may recommend getting tested at a younger age if you have a higher colon cancer risk. Some of the diagnostic procedures we use include:

  • Biopsy — This is a procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken and examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine if it contains cancer.
  • Colonoscopy screening — If you have an increased risk of colorectal cancer, this is the recommended screening test. During a colonoscopy, your doctor uses a lighted scope to view the inside of your colon. Polyps may be removed during this test and tissue samples may also be taken at the same time.
  • Digital rectal exam — This exam checks the rectum for lumps or abnormalities. About half of colon cancers can be detected in this way.
  • Fecal occult blood test — This test is used because blood in the stool can be an indicator of colorectal cancer. Your stool may also contain blood for other reasons not connected to colorectal cancer. If you experience blood in your stool, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy — During this procedure, your doctor uses a lighted scope to view the lower part of the intestine. Your doctor may also remove polyps during this test.

If it is determined that you have colorectal cancer, your doctor may order other tests, including:

  • Blood chemistry panel
  • Chest X-ray
  • Complete blood count (CBC) panel
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Ultrasound

Colorectal cancer treatment options

Colorectal cancer treatment continues to evolve more rapidly than ever. Because of this evolution, we provide a central location to bring together a diverse team of experts. Whether you need single-therapy, dual-therapy or a combination of all three of our primary therapies, our multidisciplinary approach ensures you are receiving the highest level of care available in the region.


Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. When used effectively, it may be used in combination with radiation therapy and surgery to achieve the most positive outcomes. Throughout our hospitals, the oncologists in our cancer programs are well-versed in attacking tumors and harmful cancer cells, with a host of leading-edge treatments and research at their disposal. In turn, these treatments and research are now at your disposal.

Colorectal surgery

Typically, surgery is the best option for colorectal cancer treatment. Our surgical staff includes the region's only team of fellowship-trained colon and rectal surgeons, who partner with gastroenterologists, medical oncologists and imaging specialists to provide you with the best possible surgical experience. To that end, we also use the most advanced minimally invasive robotic surgical procedures whenever possible. These techniques allow our surgeons to more-precisely perform complex surgeries that provide you with less pain, less scarring, a faster recovery and shorter hospital stay.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses X-rays to destroy cancerous cells and shrink tumors. While more commonly used to treat rectal cancer than colon cancer, radiation is typically combined with surgery. Radiation therapy at our hospitals involves the latest technologies and treatments, and we coordinate care with your surgeon, medical oncologist and primary care physician to ensure precise and accurate treatment.

Support and survivorship

We understand how overwhelming a cancer diagnosis can be, so we make sure to provide access to a dedicated nurse navigator, who guides you through each step of your treatment and recovery journey. Our specialized colorectal cancer nurse navigators will initiate and facilitate timely communication with each member of your care team, as well as provide education, resources, emotional support and access to support groups and community resources.

Treating colon conditions

Our surgeons have advanced training and use modern tools and surgical techniques to treat for colon or rectal conditions, such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and even cancer.

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