Colon & Rectal Cancer Institute

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 112,340 new cases of colon cancer and 41,420 new cases of rectal cancer in the United States this year. Combined, they will cause about 52,180 deaths.

The death rate from colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the past 15 years. One reason is that there are fewer cases. Thanks to colorectal cancer screening, polyps can be found and removed before they turn into cancer.

The Colorectal Cancer Institute at The Steeplechase Cancer Center is dedicated to providing the latest colorectal cancer prevention, detection and treatment services.

Prevention
While we do not know the exact cause of most colorectal cancer, there are certain known risk factors.

Screening Recommendations
For men and women at average risk for cancer (those without a family history of colon or rectal cancer), the most widely recommended and most effective screening tool is colonoscopy, a painless procedure performed under deep sedation.

Early detection is key to fighting colon and rectal cancers. Screening should begin at age 50. However, African-Americans should be screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 45.

Other screening options for those who can not have a colonscopy for medical reasons include:

  • Yearly fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Yearly stool blood test plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years (preferred)
  • Double contrast barium enema every 5 years

An endoscopic ultrasound also may be used. If any polyps are found they should be removed if possible.

While a digital rectal exam (DRE) is often done as part of a regular physical exam, it should not be used as a stand-alone test for colorectal cancer. For a DRE, the doctor examines the patient’s rectum with a gloved finger.

People with certain risk factors should begin screening earlier or have screening more often. Talk to your doctor about your own risk and when you should have screening tests.

Treatment
If cancer is present, close collaboration among the patient, gastroenterologist, surgeon, oncologist and radiation oncologist ensures the best possible outcome. The four main options of treatment for colorectal cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and newer, targeted therapies called monoclonal antibodies. Depending on the stage of your cancer, two or more types of treatment may be used.

Surgery is the main treatment for colon cancer. In a colorectal resection, the cancer and a length of normal colon on either side of the cancer as well as nearby lymph nodes are removed. The two ends of the colon are then sewn back together. A colectomy may be performed to remove all or part of the colon. Laparoscopic surgical options also are available.

Sometimes very early colon cancer can be removed through a colonoscope. When this is done, the doctor does not have to cut into the abdomen. Surgery for colon cancer can sometimes be done laparoscopically. In this method, a lighted tube and special instruments are placed inside the body through a few small incisions, rather than one large one.

Surgery is usually the main treatment for rectal cancer, too, although radiation and chemotherapy often will be given before surgery.

The Steeplechase Cancer Center features a state-of-the-art Varian iX linear accelerator. This equipment uses the latest in computer technology to track and deliver high-energy X-rays to a patient’s tumor with pinpoint accuracy. These X-rays can destroy the cancer cells while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. The Radiation Oncology Department also is equipped with modern treatment planning software, which enables physicians and staff to generate a specialized plan to target the tumor.

Multidisciplinary Team Approach
Each patient’s treatment is guided by a care team of gastroenterologists, medical oncologists, oncologic surgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists, primary care physicians, pathologists, medical physicists, radiation therapists, highly skilled certified oncology nurses, social workers, case managers, nutritionists, pharmacists and pastoral care staff. A multidisciplinary team continually reviews and updates our treatment protocols, ensuring we are providing the most advanced care to improve the quality of life for our patients.

As always, the best course of action is early detection. For a physician referral, call 800-443-4605.