If you’ve been recently diagnosed with colorectal (colon) cancer, you and your family might be overwhelmed with questions and concerns. Your first decision is where to get treatment.
You want a place where you can get the most advanced treatment options available. A place where you are supported by a team of compassionate experts. A place where you are treated as a whole person.
MultiCare Regional Cancer Center is that place. We have the region’s best health care providers in the field on oncology. Our world-class treatment facility offers cutting-edge technology in a welcoming and positive healing environment.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. It occurs most often in people who are older than 50. When it is caught in its early stages, it is easily treated and often cured. But because it is usually not discovered early, it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
In colorectal cancer, abnormal cells grow in the large intestine (colon and rectum). Cancers of the colon and the rectum are often talked about together as colorectal cancer because they have so much in common.
Most cases begin as polyps, which are small growths inside the colon or rectum. Colon polyps are very common, and most of them do not turn into cancer. But doctors cannot tell ahead of time which polyps will turn into cancer. This is why people older than 50 need regular tests to find out if they have any polyps and then have them removed.
Colorectal cancer in its early stages usually doesn't cause any symptoms. Symptoms occur later, when the cancer may be more difficult to treat. The most common symptoms include:
Colorectal cancer may not cause symptoms you notice in the early stages. When there are symptoms, they may depend on where the cancer is in your colon.
Having these symptoms does not mean you have cancer. A number of other medical problems could cause similar symptoms, including:
A risk factor is anything that makes you more likely to get a particular disease. Being older than 50 is the main risk factor for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer occurrence rates are highest among African Americans.
You are more likely to get colorectal cancer if one of your parents, brothers, sisters, or children has had the disease.
You have a very strong family history if all of the following are true:
If you have a very strong family history of colorectal and related cancers, you may want to have genetic testing. Certain people who are younger than 50 need regular tests if their medical history puts them at increased risk for colorectal cancer.
Some tests can prevent colorectal cancer. Screening tests look for a certain disease or condition before any symptoms appear.
Experts recommend routine colorectal cancer testing for everyone age 50 and older who has a normal risk for colorectal cancer. Screening tests could include:
If your doctor thinks you may have colorectal cancer, he or she will ask you questions about your medical history and give you a physical exam. Other tests may include:
For people who have an increased risk for colorectal cancer, regular colonoscopy is the recommended screening test because it allows your doctor to remove polyps (polypectomy) and take tissue samples at the same time.
When you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor may order other tests to find out whether the cancer has spread. These tests include:
After the cancer has been examined under a microscope, it will be staged. Staging is a way for your doctor to tell how far, if at all, your cancer has spread. It also helps your doctor decide what your treatment should be.
There are several different types of staging systems, so it's important to ask your doctor to explain carefully what stage your cancer is in and what that means.
You and your doctor will work together to decide what your treatment should be. You will consider your own preferences and your general health, but the stage of your cancer is the most important tool for choosing your treatment.
Surgery is almost always used to remove colorectal cancer. Your doctor may use one of the following types of surgery:
Even after removing all the cancer that can be found with surgery, your doctor may say you need other treatment. This may be chemotherapy, radiation or both (chemoradiation).
Chemotherapy uses medicines — given either as pills or through a needle — to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Several medicines are often used together. Research studies continue to look for the best combinations of medicines. Your doctor will recommend treatment based on the type and stage of cancer that you have.
Radiation therapy, which uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells, is standard treatment for some types of cancer in the rectum. Radiation therapy is often combined with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation may be given from a machine outside the body that targets the cancer (external radiation). Or it may be given inside the body, with radiation sealed in seeds or wires (internal radiation).
In addition to the therapies described above, we offer complementary therapies such as nutritional therapy, physical therapy, yoga, massage and emotional counseling. Many of these therapies are remarkably effective in addressing the side effects of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation by easing tension, reducing pain and improving quality of life.
Chris Chen, MD
Umesh Chitaley, MD
Trevor Dennie, MD
Michael Harris, MD
Sasha Joseph, MD
Jack Keech, DO
Lindsey Martin, ARNP
Nehal Masood, MD
Denise Mitchell, ARNP
Lavanya Sundararajan, MD
Troy Wadsworth, MD