Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women. Screening tools such as colonoscopy help physicians detect the condition early, which increases treatment options and improves patient outcomes.

Risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Tobacco use or exposure to tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • A diet low in fiber
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Obesity

All adults should have a colonoscopy at age 50 and repeat the screening as their physician suggests. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you should have a colonoscopy 10 years before the age at which your first-degree family member was diagnosed. For example, if your mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 52, you should have a colonoscopy at age 42.

If you experience any symptoms of colon cancer, your doctor might recommend a colonoscopy no matter your age. Symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Change in the appearance of stool
  • Change in bowel habits

Physicians with the Indiana University Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center are among the most experienced in the nation in the treatment of colon cancer. Our highly trained specialists in colorectal cancer focus solely on performing advanced procedures for the bowels so you receive the highest quality care.

Colon Cancer Treatment

Many skilled healthcare professionals take part in your care. At IU Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center, we strive to meet all your needs throughout treatment and recovery. Your expert team may include:

  • Colorectal surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Dietitians
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains

Your care team uses a multidisciplinary approach to develop an individualized treatment plan that is best for you. At IU Health Simon Cancer Center, you have access to a wide range of treatment options, including clinical trials where you can receive the latest treatments before they are widely available.

Depending on the stage of your cancer and your health, your treatments may include:

  • Colorectal surgery. Many different colorectal surgery options are used to fight colon cancer. For very early stage colon cancer, tumors may be removed during a colonoscopy. Most commonly, your surgeon will perform colon resection. During this procedure, part of the colon is removed. At IU Health Simon Cancer Center, our expert surgeons perform this procedure laparoscopically when possible, meaning they make only a few small incisions. We also strive to preserve as much of your colon as possible and perform advanced procedures that help you avoid colostomy.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses special medicine to kill cancer cells. You may receive chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to make sure all cancer cells have been eliminated. If your cancer has spread to other areas of your body, you may also receive chemotherapy to destroy those cells.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses precisely aimed beams of energy to destroy cancer cells. You may receive external beam radiation therapy, where energy is directed from outside your body to the inside.
  • Biological therapy. This new type of treatment uses special antibodies to prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading.
  • Clinical trials. We offer the latest treatment options for all stages of cancer through clinical trials.

All patients at IU Health Simon Cancer Center also have access to chaplains and social workers who can help you work through the emotional and psychosocial difficulties of cancer diagnosis.

Colon Cancer Research

Our physicians stay on the forefront of cancer treatment by performing research and participating in clinical trials. At IU Health Simon Cancer Center, we maintain a familial colorectal cancer registry to help family members of patients with colon cancer understand the genetic impact of this cancer on their family tree.

We also offer many clinical trial treatment options for advanced stages of colon cancer. These include biological therapies that help keep cancer from growing and spreading, new chemotherapy drugs and new ways to detect colon cancer.