Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States in both men and women. At Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, our team of experts are here to help in all stages of your cancer care, from monitoring and screening those at risk of developing colorectal cancer to follow-up appointments and rehabilitation services to improve your recovery.
What causes colon cancer?
Cancer is a complex disease that may have multiple contributing factors or unknown causes. Like other forms of cancer, you may have a greater chance of developing colon cancer based on your lifestyle, medical history and family history.
If someone in your family has or had colon cancer, or if you have a bowel condition such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerative colitis, you may be at an elevated risk of developing colon cancer.
Your cancer risk may also increase if you are a smoker or regularly consume alcohol, if you are obese, or if you do not exercise regularly.
Why is colon cancer screening important?
Colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men in the United States, occurring in as many as one in 23 men. Among men and women in Missouri, colon cancer has the fourth highest cancer death rate.
Screenings are the best tool available to reduce these numbers. Since 1970, routine screenings have helped increase colon cancer survival rates by more than 50%. If you are 45 or older and have not yet had a colon cancer screening, talk to your primary care doctor.
Symptoms of colon cancer are rare or hard to detect during early stages without screenings, when the disease is most easily treated. People with later stages of colon cancer may show symptoms such as bloody stool and new or worsening difficult bowel movements.
Colon cancer diagnosis
Our experts at Ellis Fischel offer several forms of early detection, including:
- Fecal occult blood tests, which examine your stool for blood that’s not immediately visible.
- Computed tomography (CT) scans, which compile several X-rays to create a detailed picture of bones or soft tissue.
- Colonoscopies, an examination that uses a small, flexible instrument with a light and camera to check your colon and rectum for signs of cancer.
- Sigmoidoscopies, an exam that uses the same instrument as colonoscopies to examine just the lower part of your large intestine.
- Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR), a minimally invasive procedure that can diagnose and remove cancerous and pre-cancerous tissue using a similar small, flexible instrument.
Should I get screened for colon cancer?
Based on U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, doctors recommend people at normal risk levels begin screening at age 45. If you have a family history of colon cancer or conditions such as IBD or Crohn’s disease, your doctor may ask you to begin screenings early.
These guidelines recommend an annual fecal occult blood test, a sigmoidoscopy once every five years or a colonoscopy once every 10 years.
If you are older than 75, talk with your doctor about whether you should continue monitoring for colon cancer.
Colon cancer treatment at MU Health Care
Based on your diagnosis and medical history, your team of cancer specialists at Ellis Fischel will create a treatment and recovery plan specifically for you. This may mean taking medications or undergoing chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor, radiation therapy to damage the tumor, surgery to remove the tumor, or a combination of treatments, which are all available within the same building.
Our cancer surgery specialists offer both laparoscopic and robotic surgery when appropriate. These minimally invasive techniques may lead to fewer scars, reduce your discomfort after the operation and mean you spend less time in the hospital.
At Ellis Fischel, our doctors and nurses have been caring for people with cancer for more than 80 years. As Missouri’s only state-designated cancer center and an academic health system, our experts use the most advanced technology and conduct leading-edge research to offer you the safest and most effective treatment options. These include clinical trials, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
Our nurses and patient navigators strive to alleviate as much stress as possible during treatment, from coordinating all your appointments on the same day to accompanying you between appointments so you get where you need to go.
If you have your cancer treated at Ellis Fischel, we can help you coordinate your recovery with our dedicated cancer rehabilitation. This program is run by therapists who work with you to help you recover and lessen the side effects of treatment such as extreme tiredness.
After your treatment we will continue to monitor you for five years to make sure you stay cancer free with a combination of physical exams, bloodwork, colonoscopies and imaging studies when appropriate.
For more information about cancer care, please call our office or download our screening guide.