Information you need about symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options for colon cancer.
Colon cancer is a disease caused by cancerous cells that grow in the tissues and muscles of the colon. The colon is the first part of the large intestine. It helps convert digested food into waste that leaves the body as stool.
Colon cancer (also called large bowel cancer) is the third most common cancer in the United States. It affects more than 130,000 people each year. Henry Ford cancer specialists are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer.
Symptoms of colon cancer
People with colorectal cancer may have symptoms similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or hemorrhoids, including:
- Bowel obstruction
- Cramping or pain in the abdomen
- Diarrhea, constipation, or narrow stool
- Persistent pressure or feeling the need to have a bowel movement
- Rectal bleeding, dark stool, or blood in the stool
- Unintended weight loss
- Weakness and fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a colorectal cancer specialist.
Risk factors for colon cancer
Some risk factors for colon cancer are inherited. Others are based on lifestyle choices. Risk factors include:
- Age: More than 90 percent of people with colon cancer are over the age of 40, though colon cancer can affect people of any age. We may recommend genetic counseling for younger patients and their family members.
- Certain hereditary conditions: If a family member has a history of one of these conditions, you may be at increased risk of colon cancer. We offer cancer genetics counseling for people who may have these conditions, including:
- Familial adenomatous polyposis
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- Lynch syndrome, or hereditary non polyposis colon cancer syndrome (HNPCC)
- Colon polyps: These abnormal growths may develop into colon cancer.
- Family history: As many as 1 in 5 people diagnosed with colon cancer have other family members who also have had the disease.
- Lifestyle choices: Obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and eating a diet high in red meat have been linked to colon cancer.
- Ulcerative colitis: This inflammatory bowel disease can cause colon cancer over time.
Colon cancer treatment at Henry Ford
We provide comprehensive colon cancer care, including:
- Screening for early detection: When colon cancer is caught early, it’s highly treatable. Our Open Access Colonoscopy program lets you schedule a colonoscopy without a prior appointment. We also offer alternative colon cancer screening tests.
- Advanced treatment: We perform complex colon cancer surgery, including robot-assisted and minimally invasive procedures. Ours is one of the most experienced programs in the country for stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). This noninvasive radiation therapy precisely targets tumors and spares healthy tissue.
- Education and support: We’re there for you before, during, and after colorectal cancer treatment. We prepare you for what to expect during treatment and recovery. We also connect you with others who understand what you’re going through.
Surgery for colon cancer
We perform most colon cancer surgeries without the need for a permanent colostomy or ileostomy. Our surgical treatments include:
- Robotic surgery: We use robotic surgery to treat the delicate tissues of the colon with great precision. We are one of the most experienced robotic surgery centers in the United States.
- Transanal microsurgery (TEM): We use this procedure to remove certain types of polyps and tumors with no incision.
- Transanal total mesorectal excision (TaTME): During this procedure, we remove the tumor and part of the bowel. Ours is the only site in Michigan that offers this procedure for rectal cancer.
- Laparoscopic surgery: Surgeons use smaller incisions than with traditional surgery. Patients have less pain, lower risk of complications, and faster recovery.
- Specialized polyp removal: Our gastroenterologists (physicians that specialize in the digestive tract) are skilled at removing complicated polyps that may turn into cancer.
- Fecal incontinence surgery: Fecal incontinence (being unable to control bowel movements) sometimes happens during or after cancer treatment. We offer FDA-approved treatments to help you avoid this problem.
Your doctor also may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy in combination with surgery. We use the safest therapies to effectively treat your cancer, minimize side effects, and avoid damage to healthy tissue.