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Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (also known as the colon), which is in the lower part of the digestive tract. It’s the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States.

WakeMed’s gastroenterology team helps colon cancer patients lead longer and healthier lives through early detection, a range of treatment options, and individualized and collaborative care.

What Are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?

Many people will experience no symptoms of colon cancer. However, some people have colon cancer symptoms including:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps that won’t go away
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment to see a gastroenterologist.

There is a higher risk of colon cancer in people who:

  • Are 50 years of age or older
  • Are African American or of eastern European descent
  • Eat a lot of red or processed meats
  • Have colon polyps
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease
  • Have a family history of colon cancer
  • Smoke or drink alcohol

Some studies suggest that low fat, high fiber diets can reduce the risk for colon cancer. Our nutritional counselors can help patients evaluate the latest information and make smart nutritional choices.

How Do You Diagnose Colon Cancer?

Early detection is key to effectively treating colon cancer. Having a colonoscopy helps in the early detection of colon cancer, which is when the disease is easier to cure.

colonoscopy (sometimes referred to as a lower endoscopy) looks at the inner lining of the colon to check for polyps or cancer. Colon polyps are growths in the colon that can turn into cancer over time.

Regular colonoscopies are recommended every ten years for people over the age of 50.

Patients who are experiencing the symptoms above, however, may also need to get one. Additionally, people with inflammatory bowel disease, a family history of colon cancer, or a history of colon polyps should get them more frequently.

If the results from the colonoscopy determine that it’s cancer, more tests may be done to see if the cancer has spread, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans

How Do You Treat Colon Cancer?

Depending on the stage of the cancer, or how far it’s spread, treatment can include:

  • Removing polyps during a colonoscopy
  • Minimally invasive surgery to remove larger polyps
  • Surgery to remove the part of the colon that has the cancer
  • Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to destroy the cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy, which uses X-rays to destroy the cancer cells
  • Targeted therapy, which can be helpful for patients with advanced colon cancer

WakeMed’s experienced team of specialists works collaboratively to create a customized treatment plan for each patient.

Make an Appointment

If you or someone you care for is experiencing worrisome symptoms, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our pediatric gastroenterologists, adult gastroenterologists or colorectal surgeons.