About Colon Cancer

Cancers of the colon and the rectum, or colorectal cancers, are the most common gastrointestinal (GI) cancers.  These cancers are the third most common cancers both in men and women.

The primary risk factor for colorectal cancer (colon cancer) is age, with more than 90 percent of cases diagnosed in individuals older than 50. Risk is increased by a personal or family history of colorectal cancer and/or polyps, or personal history of inflammatory bowel disease. Other risk factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, a diet high in saturated fat and/or red meat, as well as inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables.

Colon Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

Colon cancer usually causes no symptoms in its early stages, making screening important. People over 50 are advised to have annual screenings, such as a fecal occult blood test and an initial colonoscopy, with subsequent frequency of testing determined by an individualized risk assessment. Those who have a family history of the disease may be advised to start their screening program at a younger age. Rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits and cramping pain in the lower abdomen may signal more advanced disease.

The Women's Cancer Risk and Prevention Center at NorthShore offers a team of all-female gastroenterologists, registered dietitians and nurses who consult with female patients who have been referred for a colonoscopy or who want to discuss ways to reduce colon cancer risk.

If a screening shows abnormalities, a sample of the abnormal tissue will be removed and tested. If a diagnosis of colon cancer is made, a physician will determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body. This may require further testing, which could include one or more of the following: blood tests, a colonoscopy, chest X-ray, CT scan or PET scan. Each cancer type has its own classification system.

Multispecialty Team

NorthShore University HealthSystem physicians and the team at the Kellogg Cancer Center work collaboratively and are dedicated to putting patients and families at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss each patient's case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. Your team may include your medical oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, genetics counselor, pathologist, nutritionist, gastroenterologist, interventional radiologist and researchers focused on you. This meeting of the minds provides each individual patient with an individualized care plant to create the path for the most successful outcome. Our approach emphasizes open communication, collaborating with each other personally and through one of the most advanced electronic medical records systems in the country.

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