Colon Cancer

If you’re concerned about the possibility of colon cancer or have recently received a diagnosis, you’re not in this alone. At Henry Ford Health, a team of colon cancer experts is by your side to offer guidance and support. From advanced screening tests to the latest surgeries, get all the services you need for complete care in one place.

Newly diagnosed?

Contact the cancer team 24/7 by calling (888) 777-4167 or request an appointment online.

Why choose Henry Ford for colon cancer care?

People throughout Michigan and the Midwest turn to us for colon cancer care and second opinions because we offer:

  • Colon cancer tumor board: A team of colon cancer doctors meets weekly to review each patient’s case. You receive coordinated input from surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists and other specialists who focus exclusively on colon cancer.
  • Sphincter-sparing surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancer. Our surgeons do sphincter-sparing surgeries whenever possible, removing cancer without changing the way you have bowel movements. Most of our patients don’t need a permanent colostomy after treatment.
  • Treatments for advanced colon cancer: We are at the forefront of targeted therapies and immunotherapies for colon cancer, including metastatic colon cancer (that has spread to other parts of the body). These treatments can help people with metastatic colon cancer live longer. Henry Ford also participates in clinical trials to study the newest drugs for colon cancer. You may have access to treatments here that aren’t widely available.
Nurse with ipad in hand
Connect with a Cancer Expert

Our cancer team is here for you in-person, by phone and virtually for all your cancer care needs.

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer is caused by cancerous cells that grow in the tissues and muscles of your colon. The colon is the longest part of your large intestine. It helps convert digested food into waste that leaves your body as stool.

Colon cancer is also called colorectal cancer. This broader term can also include rectal cancer. Although the colon and rectum are close together, treatment is different depending on where the cancer is located. That’s why it’s so important to get an accurate colorectal cancer diagnosis  from an experienced team.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and women. It’s also the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Colon cancer is more common than rectal cancer.

What are colon polyps?

Colon cancer starts as colon polyps, abnormal growths on the wall of your colon. Most polyps are harmless, but some contain cancerous cells that can grow into malignant tumors and spread.

We find and remove colon polyps during a colonoscopy , a colorectal cancer screening  test. If we find a colon polyp, we remove it and test it for cancer. Even if the polyp is benign (noncancerous), we may ask you to come back for follow-up colonoscopies or other tests. If the polyp is cancerous, we make a treatment plan.


Who gets colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in the U.S. It’s slightly more common in men than women. The risk of colorectal cancer increases after age 50. However, the rate of colorectal cancer in young adults is on the rise.

Are you at risk for colorectal cancer?

Take the next step

Contact the colorectal cancer care team 24/7 by calling (888) 777-4167 or request an appointment online.

What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

Colon cancer is highly treatable when we find it early. That’s why it’s so important to get screened and talk to your doctor at the first sign of symptoms or problems.

Symptoms of colon cancer may include:

  • Blood in your stool or bleeding from your rectum
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Cramping or pain in your abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pressure in your abdomen that isn’t relieved by a bowel movement
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue

What increases the risk of colon cancer?

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing colon cancer. Some factors you can change (such as lifestyle choices), and some you can’t (such as inherited genetics).

Colon cancer risks include:

  • Age: Colon cancer is most common in people over 50.
  • Colon polyps: A history of polyps makes you more likely to develop colon cancer.
  • Family history: A family history of colon polyps or cancer increases your risk for colon cancer.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease cause chronic inflammation, making you more susceptible to colon cancer.
  • Lifestyle: Smoking, drinking alcohol, eating a diet high in processed meats or being overweight increase your risk of colon and other cancers.
  • Inherited diseases: Genetic syndromes such as Peutz-Jeghers syndrome and Lynch syndrome increase your risk of colon cancer.
The Evolution of treatment for colorectal cancer

How is colon cancer treated?

Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancer. Colorectal cancer surgeries we offer include:

  • Local excision: We can remove early cancer by inserting a scope and surgical tools through your rectum, similar to a colonoscopy. You don’t have an incision in your abdomen.
  • Partial colectomy: Your surgeon removes the part of your colon that contains cancer and nearby lymph nodes. In most cases, we can join the two remaining ends of your colon together (anastomosis) so you can use the bathroom normally. We can often do this procedure using minimally invasive techniques.
  • Total colectomy: For advanced colon cancer, we may need to remove your entire colon. Sometimes we can join your small intestine to your rectum or anus so you can use the bathroom as you did before.

In some cases, we recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy before surgery to shrink tumors so they’re easier to remove. Or you receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to reduce the risk that cancer will return.

We may recommend targeted therapy or immunotherapy for people with metastatic colon cancer who aren’t candidates for surgery.

Will I need a colostomy bag after colon cancer surgery?

Many people are concerned about needing a colostomy bag after colon cancer surgery. A colostomy bag is attached to a surgically created opening in your abdomen, called an ostomy or stoma. The bag collects stool when you can’t use the bathroom normally.

Sometimes, we can’t reconnect sections of your digestive tract during colon cancer surgery. If this happens, we divert part of your colon (colostomy) or small intestine (ileostomy) to the opening in your abdomen. A colostomy or ileostomy may be temporary or permanent. We can often do stoma reversal surgery once your digestive tract has healed. Our patients also benefit from the expertise of specialized ostomy nurses at our outpatient ostomy clinic.

At Henry Ford, the experience of our surgical team means most patients do not need permanent colostomies after colon cancer surgery. Whenever possible, we do sphincter-sparing surgery to preserve bowel function so you can have the highest possible quality of life.


Newly diagnosed?

Contact the cancer team 24/7 by calling (888) 777-4167.


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