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Colon and Rectal Cancer

The colon and rectum are the last parts of the digestive tract. The colon, or large intestine, is a long organ shaped like a tube. Its job is to push partially digested food through, removing water, nutrients and electrolytes. What remains in the colon is called stool and is stored in the rectum, leaving the body through the anus. Cancers that occur in these two areas are often considered together under the term “colorectal cancer” because they have many similarities. This cancer tends to start with polyps forming on the inside lining in the colon or rectum. Some of these growths are benign, while others can develop into cancer. In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, with the exclusion of skin cancers.

Common Symptoms

Though in the early stages of the disease, many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms. Typical symptoms that may appear include:

  • Rectal bleeding/bloody stool
  • A long-term change in your bowel habits, whether that means a change in consistency of stool and/or the occurrence of constipation or diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort, including cramps, gas or pain that continuously recurs
  • A feeling that the bowel doesn’t completely empty
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue/weakness

Treatment Options

Doctors recommend that everyone with an average risk of colon cancer get screened every 10 years starting at age 50. Those with an increased risk should consult with their doctor about getting screened sooner. If, however, a patient is diagnosed with stage I or II colon cancer, most physicians will recommend surgery. Stage III, IV and sometimes Stage II patients may receive chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in combination with surgery. Small tumors can sometimes be removed with a surgical tool that is inserted in the rectum, rather than with an open incision. A more complex surgery is often required for larger tumors. Stage IV patients may receive chemotherapy as a way to address symptoms and lengthen their life, however at this stage the disease is generally not curable. The focus of much current research is on targeted therapies and immunotherapy, where your own immune system fights the cancer cells. Clinical trials are another way to approach treatment of advanced disease.

Previous Page Last Review Date: April 29, 2020
Colon and Rectal Cancer Team
Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016
Amit Vinay Sastry, MD

Amit Vinay Sastry, MD

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016
Vanitha Vasudevan, MD, FACS

Vanitha Vasudevan, MD, FACS

General Surgery, Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016