The Colon and Rectal Cancer Program
Breakthroughs in colon cancer and rectal cancer are being made everyday. The progress over the last decade has been tremendous. Treatments that were once considered impossible are now saving lives as a matter of course.
CentraState’s colorectal cancer experts are keeping pace with this progress. They provide the most advanced treatment options for colon and rectal cancer along with the ongoing care and support you need to stay strong—body, mind and spirit.
Colon and Rectal Cancer Symptoms
Although colon and rectal cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, often display no symptoms (which is why early screening is so important), in later stages people may experience:
- Diarrhea, constipation, or narrow stools that last for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that doesn’t go away after doing so
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
- Cramping or stomach pain
- Weakness and tiredness
Colon and Rectal Cancer Risk Factors
Increased risk for colon cancer and rectal cancer has been linked to:
Age—Nine out of 10 people with colorectal cancer are older than 50.
History—Having had polyps, colon cancer or rectal cancer before, a history of bowel disease, or a family history of colon cancer or rectal cancer.
Race—African Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent have a higher risk for colon and rectal cancer.
Lifestyle—Poor diet, lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking, alcohol, and diabetes appears to increase risk of developing colon and rectal cancer.
Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Screenings
The American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, and U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer recommend regular screenings beginning at age 50 for people at average risk for colon cancer or rectal cancer. Several screening options exist. Your family doctor can help determine what colon cancer or rectal screening cancer program is right for you. The following tests are offered at CentraState:
- Fecal occult blood tests (also take-home kits)
- Double-contrast barium enemas
Colon and Rectal Cancer Treatment Options
Surgical options for colon cancer
Every person’s medical scenario is unique. A lot of factors need to be weighed, including the size, location, shape, and stage of your cancer and your overall health. Your surgeon will help you to determine which procedure is right for you.
For early stage cancer, a colectomy (sometimes called hemicolectomy, partial colectomy, or segmental resections) is often performed. During the surgery, your surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen. Usually, a portion of the colon will be removed depending on the size and location of the cancer. The remaining sections of your colon are then reattached, and, at the same time, nearby lymph nodes are removed.
For earlier stage cancers, this less invasive approach to removing part of the colon and nearby lymph nodes may be an option. Instead, of making one long incision in the abdomen, your surgeon makes several smaller incisions. Long-shafted instruments are inserted through these incisions to remove part of the colon and lymph nodes. One of the instruments, a laparoscope, has a small video camera on the end, which allows the surgeon to see the inside of the abdomen. When the diseased part of the colon has been identified, it can be removed through one of the incisions. Because the incisions are smaller than the long incision of an open colectomy, patients may have less complications, less scarring, recover faster and have less pain than they do after standard colon surgery.
Laparoscopy may be effective for many routine procedures, but it has its limits in colorectal surgery due to the complexity of these procedures. For those who are candidates for robotic colorectal surgery, the da Vinci® surgical system offers a safe alternative to traditional and laparoscopic surgeries. The Statesir Cancer Center at CentraState was the first hospital in New Jersey to perform robotic colorectal cancer surgery. It allows surgeons to perform delicate and complex operations through a few tiny incisions with increased vision, precision, dexterity and control. Benefits include less pain and blood loss, less scarring, shorter recovery time and hospital stay, lower rate of surgical complications and quicker return to your daily activities.
Polypectomy and local excision
Some early colon cancers (stage 0 and some early stage 1 tumors) or polyps can be removed surgically with a colonoscope. With this procedure, the surgeon does not have to cut into the abdomen. For a polypectomy, the cancer is removed as part of the polyp. Local excision removes superficial cancers and a small amount of nearby tissue.
Surgical options for rectal cancer
For rectal cancer, surgery is usually the main form of treatment. Several surgical approaches can be used to remove or destroy rectal cancers. It depends on the rectal cancer location and stage.
Radiation Therapy for Colon and Rectal Cancer
Radiation therapeutic approaches for colorectal cancer:
External beam radiotherapy (EBR)
Uses a special machine (linear accelerator) to deliver high doses of radiation to the site while limiting exposure to healthy tissues and organs and minimizing side effects.
- 3-D conformal radiotherapy
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
Radiation therapy is administered by CentraState’s Karen Olbis Radiation Oncology Center.
Chemotherapy for Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer
Chemotherapy uses medicines that kill or halt the growth of cancer cells. Chemo may be used at different times during the treatment of colon or rectal cancers.
Adjuvant chemo: Chemo used after surgery is known as adjuvant chemo. It can help keep the cancer from coming back later and has been shown to help people with stage II and stage III colon cancer and rectal cancer live longer. It is given after all visible cancer has been removed to lower the chance that it will come back. It works by killing the small number of cancer cells that may have been left behind at surgery because they were too small to see. Adjuvant chemo is also aimed at killing cancer cells that might have escaped from the main tumor and settled in other parts of the body (but are too small to see on imaging tests).
Neoadjuvant chemo: For some cancers, chemo is given (sometimes with radiation) before surgery to try to shrink the cancer and make surgery easier. This is known as neoadjuvant treatment and is often used in treating rectal cancer.
Chemo for advanced cancers: Chemo can also be used to help shrink tumors and relieve symptoms for cancers that have spread to other organs, such as the liver. Although it is not likely to cure the cancer, it often helps people live longer.
Chemotherapy is provided at the Jean Mehr Infusion Therapy Center offered through CentraState Medical Center’s Pharmacy Department and administered by Magnet-designated nurses credentialed in chemotherapy and certified in cancer care.
Clinical Trials for Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer
Some patients may be eligible to participate in clinical trials for colorectal cancer in which they receive an emerging colorectal cancer treatment before it becomes publicly available. Talk to your oncologist or surgeon to learn more. You may also want to speak with your cancer navigator.