Colon Cancer

Our experts use a comprehensive approach to diagnose and treat your cancer

Your colon, the longest part of your large intestine, performs the final processes of digestion—extracting water and nutrients from food before they pass out of the body.

Nearly all colon cancers start as noncancerous polyps (knob-like growths) that grow out of tiny glands lining the large intestine. Many people have colon polyps. Most do not turn into cancer. Most colorectal cancer occurs due to lifestyle and increasing age.

With early diagnosis, IU Health physicians can treat your colon cancer.

What are Colon Cancer Risk Factors?

Known risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Being over age 50
  • Eating a lot of red or processed meats
  • Colorectal polyps
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Personal history of ovarian, uterine or breast cancer

What are Colon Cancer Symptoms?

Colon cancer in its early stages often does not cause pain, but it may produce other symptoms, such as blood in the stool, weight loss and fatigue. If you have these symptoms, see your physician.

Understanding Colon Cancer

What are Colon Cancer Risk Factors?

Known risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Being over age 50
  • Eating a lot of red or processed meats
  • Colorectal polyps
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Personal history of ovarian, uterine or breast cancer

What are Colon Cancer Symptoms?

Colon cancer in its early stages often does not cause pain, but it may produce other symptoms, such as blood in the stool, weight loss and fatigue. If you have these symptoms, see your physician.

Gastroenterologists at IU Health will use a variety of screenings and tests to detect colon cancer. A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) can detect even small amounts of blood in your stool. If your physician detects blood, he or she may perform additional tests such as colonoscopy.

Colon cancer is highly preventable and treatable. Yet more than 140,000 people are diagnosed with—and more than 50,000 people die from—colon cancer each year in the U.S. The key to improving these statistics is to ensure that every person completes a routine colon cancer screening test, which can stop the disease before it starts.

If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, we recommend talking with your doctor about which test is best for you.

Colon Cancer Screening Options

Colon cancer screening options
Colon cancer screening options

If you have questions about your health, talk to your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, call 800.248.1199 and IU Health can help you.

How is Colon Cancer Diagnosed?

Gastroenterologists at IU Health will use a variety of screenings and tests to detect colon cancer. A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) can detect even small amounts of blood in your stool. If your physician detects blood, he or she may perform additional tests such as colonoscopy.

Colon cancer is highly preventable and treatable. Yet more than 140,000 people are diagnosed with—and more than 50,000 people die from—colon cancer each year in the U.S. The key to improving these statistics is to ensure that every person completes a routine colon cancer screening test, which can stop the disease before it starts.

If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, we recommend talking with your doctor about which test is best for you.

Colon Cancer Screening Options

Colon cancer screening options
Colon cancer screening options

If you have questions about your health, talk to your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, call 800.248.1199 and IU Health can help you.

From diagnosis through treatment and recovery, IU Health physicians customize your care to provide the most effective, least invasive treatment so you can enjoy your quality of life. Your physicians will take time to learn about you and your family, and work with you to plan your treatment according to your individual needs.

IU Health physicians will use a team approach to fight your colon cancer. Your team of experts may include:

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Interventional oncologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Dietitians
  • Psychologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Social workers
  • Nurses

Your team will use the power of combined medical expertise and multiple approaches to develop effective, highly personalized treatment plans for you.

IU Health physicians will actively pursue clinical research, develop new treatments through clinical trials and find new ways to test for colon cancer. These clinical trials make innovative new medications and techniques available to IU Health patients before anywhere else.

Your IU Health colon cancer team will use a variety of treatments to identify and combat your disease. These include:

Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy identifies cancer and removes colon polyps. Physicians outside IU Health commonly refer patients to IU Health gastroenterologists for difficult colonoscopies or removal of large colon polyps.

During a colonoscopy, you will receive anesthesia so you feel no discomfort or pain. Your physician will guide a thin tube with a camera through your colon to check for polyps or unusual growths. Your physician will remove polyps during colonoscopy and check for cancer cells.

When you receive a normal test result, you only need colonoscopies every ten years starting at age 50.

Chemotherapy

Depending on the stage of colon cancer, your physician may suggest chemotherapy at different times during treatment.

Before surgery, chemotherapy can shrink tumors. After surgery, chemotherapy can kill any remaining cancer cells. Other types of chemotherapy work to destroy colon cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of your body. You should discuss the pros and cons of this therapy with your physician.

Biological Therapy

A new class of drugs called biologics contain special antibodies (disease-fighting proteins) that bind to cancer cells and interfere with their growth. Some biologics show improved outcomes for colon cancer.

Radiation

Radiation treatments use high-energy X-rays to kill colon cancer cells. These therapies shrink colon tumors and treat tumors too large or in places that make it difficult to remove surgically.

External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters placed directly into or near the cancer.

Surgery

Physicians most commonly use surgery for all stages of colon cancer. Types of surgery offered at IU Health for colon cancer include:

    • Local excision. For early stages of colon cancer, your physician may remove your cancer without cutting through the abdominal wall.
    • Resection. For larger cancers, your physician will perform a partial colectomy (removing the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it).
    • Resection and colostomy. If needed, your physician will perform a colostomy, using a stoma (opening) on the outside of the body through which waste can pass.
    • Radiofrequency ablation. For this procedure, your physician will use a probe with tiny electrodes to kill cancer cells.
    • Cryosurgery. Physicians use this treatment to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as cancer cells.

    What are Colon Cancer Treatment Options?

    From diagnosis through treatment and recovery, IU Health physicians customize your care to provide the most effective, least invasive treatment so you can enjoy your quality of life. Your physicians will take time to learn about you and your family, and work with you to plan your treatment according to your individual needs.

    IU Health physicians will use a team approach to fight your colon cancer. Your team of experts may include:

    • Medical oncologists
    • Radiation oncologists
    • Surgical oncologists
    • Interventional oncologists
    • Gastroenterologists
    • Radiologists
    • Pathologists
    • Dietitians
    • Psychologists
    • Pharmacists
    • Social workers
    • Nurses

    Your team will use the power of combined medical expertise and multiple approaches to develop effective, highly personalized treatment plans for you.

    IU Health physicians will actively pursue clinical research, develop new treatments through clinical trials and find new ways to test for colon cancer. These clinical trials make innovative new medications and techniques available to IU Health patients before anywhere else.

    Your IU Health colon cancer team will use a variety of treatments to identify and combat your disease. These include:

    Colonoscopy

    Colonoscopy identifies cancer and removes colon polyps. Physicians outside IU Health commonly refer patients to IU Health gastroenterologists for difficult colonoscopies or removal of large colon polyps.

    During a colonoscopy, you will receive anesthesia so you feel no discomfort or pain. Your physician will guide a thin tube with a camera through your colon to check for polyps or unusual growths. Your physician will remove polyps during colonoscopy and check for cancer cells.

    When you receive a normal test result, you only need colonoscopies every ten years starting at age 50.

    Chemotherapy

    Depending on the stage of colon cancer, your physician may suggest chemotherapy at different times during treatment.

    Before surgery, chemotherapy can shrink tumors. After surgery, chemotherapy can kill any remaining cancer cells. Other types of chemotherapy work to destroy colon cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of your body. You should discuss the pros and cons of this therapy with your physician.

    Biological Therapy

    A new class of drugs called biologics contain special antibodies (disease-fighting proteins) that bind to cancer cells and interfere with their growth. Some biologics show improved outcomes for colon cancer.

    Radiation

    Radiation treatments use high-energy X-rays to kill colon cancer cells. These therapies shrink colon tumors and treat tumors too large or in places that make it difficult to remove surgically.

    External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters placed directly into or near the cancer.

    Surgery

    Physicians most commonly use surgery for all stages of colon cancer. Types of surgery offered at IU Health for colon cancer include:

      • Local excision. For early stages of colon cancer, your physician may remove your cancer without cutting through the abdominal wall.
      • Resection. For larger cancers, your physician will perform a partial colectomy (removing the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it).
      • Resection and colostomy. If needed, your physician will perform a colostomy, using a stoma (opening) on the outside of the body through which waste can pass.
      • Radiofrequency ablation. For this procedure, your physician will use a probe with tiny electrodes to kill cancer cells.
      • Cryosurgery. Physicians use this treatment to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as cancer cells.

      Patient Stories for Colon Cancer

      Learning about colon cancer may help you prevent it. Use these resources to find out more about what you can do to help yourself, or someone you love, live with colon cancer.

      • American Cancer Society:
        The American Cancer Society provides extensive information about colon cancer, including information about screening colonoscopies.
      • Centers for Disease Control:
        This U.S. government website provides basic information about colon cancer.
      • Colon Cancer Alliance:
        The Colon Cancer Alliance aims to increase the number of people screened for colon cancer. It also provides information and support for people with colon cancer and their families, including an online support community.
      • National Cancer Institute:
        This U.S. government website contains a wealth of information about colon cancer, treatment, research into better treatments, clinical trials and many other topics.

      Resources

      Learning about colon cancer may help you prevent it. Use these resources to find out more about what you can do to help yourself, or someone you love, live with colon cancer.

      • American Cancer Society:
        The American Cancer Society provides extensive information about colon cancer, including information about screening colonoscopies.
      • Centers for Disease Control:
        This U.S. government website provides basic information about colon cancer.
      • Colon Cancer Alliance:
        The Colon Cancer Alliance aims to increase the number of people screened for colon cancer. It also provides information and support for people with colon cancer and their families, including an online support community.
      • National Cancer Institute:
        This U.S. government website contains a wealth of information about colon cancer, treatment, research into better treatments, clinical trials and many other topics.