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Colon Cancer

 201-227-6008   |    cancer@holyname.org

Overview

Colon cancer starts in the colon, the biggest section of the large intestine. Most colon cancer begins as a benign growth, called a polyp, on the lining of the colon. Polyps can be removed before they become cancer during screenings for colon cancer, a procedure known as a colonoscopy.

Approximately 150,000 cases of colon cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. The incidence is decreasing in patients over 50 due to the increased use of colonoscopies. However, the incidence is increasing in those under 50.

The Patricia Lynch Cancer Center at Holy Name has a multi-disciplinary team of experienced and skilled colon and rectal surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses and support staff to diagnose and treat colon cancer. Together they provide a compassionate, unified approach in creating a personal strategy for each patient's unique medical, emotional and lifestyle needs.


  • A change in bowel habits that lasts several weeks

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool

  • Abdominal discomfort - cramps or bloating

  • A sense that the bowel doesn't empty completely

  • Weakness or fatigue

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Rectal pain

  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer

  • Personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer

  • High fat/low fiber diet

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • African-American race

  • Inflammatory bowel disease - ulcerative colitis or Crohns disease

  • Obesity

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol

  • Colonoscopy - Based on data that shows an increase in colon cancer at earlier ages, the American Cancer Society recommends colonoscopy screening begin at age 45 for people at average risk for the disease. Earlier screening provides an opportunity to detect cancer when it is in a more curable stage and allows for prevention by removing pre-malignant lesions or polyps at the time of the procedure.

  • Fecal occult blood testing

  • Fecal immunochemical testing

  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)

  • CT scan

  • MRI

  • Biopsy

  • Blood test - CEA

Treatment options depend on the stage of the disease but surgery is almost always part of the overall plan. The surgery, which can often be done with minimally invasive techniques, involves removing the part of the colon with cancer and the surrounding lymph nodes and then putting the ends of the colon back together. Only rarely will a patient require a colostomy - a bag on the outside of the body to collect waste.

Depending on the stage of the cancer, chemotherapy is sometimes required. If the cancer is very advanced, surgery can often be avoided and chemotherapy is then used to prevent the progression of the disease.