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Colon and Rectal Cancer

Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Research and Clinical Trials | Additional Patient Support

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 experienced, collaborative team of specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combines the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care, creating a program of personalized medicine and patient-centered care for each individual diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Drawing from the diverse experience of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively and is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer have the added support of a specialized oncology nurse navigator to guide them through their colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment.

NorthShore's Women’s Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program 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 colorectal cancer risk.

Colorectal Cancer Screening, Diagnosis and Risk Factors 

The primary risk factor for colon and rectal 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.

NorthShore’s emphasis on early detection allows our experienced team of specialists to diagnose a greater proportion of early stage colorectal cancer cases, which are more likely to be treated with minimally invasive techniques leading to improved outcomes.

Early diagnosis increases the odds for successful colon and rectal cancer treatment, and there are a variety of colorectal cancer screenings that may be recommended to obtain a diagnosis. This begins with a recommended colonoscopy; our team also performs additional evaluations depending on a patient's results, which may include a digital rectal exam as well as fecal occult and fecal immunochemical tests to detect blood or blood proteins in the stool. If these tests suggest colorectal cancer, other tests may be recommended, including endoscopic tests, such as colonoscopy and endoscopic ultrasound. Imaging, such as CT and MRI scans, may also be recommended. If colon or rectal cancer is found, a piece of the tumor may be removed and sent for biopsy by experts in NorthShore’s pathology lab. This onsite resource ensures that a majority of colorectal cancer screenings and novel diagnostics are completed in house. This provides physicians with swift results determining the severity (stage) of the cancer and allows them to begin any necessary colorectal cancer treatment as early as possible. 

NorthShore’s Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy Program, brings additional specialized expertise to our patients. This sophisticated technology is becoming more important in helping to diagnose, precisely stage and treat benign and malignant tumors in the GI tract.

Personalized Colorectal Cancer Treatment

The majority of patients with colon cancer are treated with laparoscopic procedures or minimally invasive techniques. NorthShore’s surgeons are recognized experts in these forms of surgery and continue to expand these options for patients. Multimodal strategies combining surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are also used, when necessary, to ensure optimal outcomes for patients with rectal cancer. For individuals diagnosed with colon cancer, chemotherapy and surgery may be used.

Throughout each month, your multidisciplinary team meets in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized colorectal cancer treatment plan. For colon and rectal cancer your team may include your medical oncologistsurgeon, gastroenterologist, radiation oncologist, oncology nurse, geneticist, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you. Because NorthShore focuses on early detection, our medical genetics team is an important collaborator in treating patients with colorectal cancer. Through the Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine, we are able to identify specific genetic mutations in colorectal cancer and tailor treatment options and medical therapies accordingly. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized care plan outlining the best course of action for each individual patient. 

Patients are at the center of our multidisciplinary team, and Kellogg staff arrange for them to be seen by their multidisciplinary specialists at one appointment, not only for their convenience but to provide a consensus on their course of treatment. Our use of one of the most advanced Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in the country enhances our open communication and promotes collaboration in our patient care.

Research and Clinical Trials

For patients diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, a vital research enterprise allows Kellogg Cancer Center patients access to the latest drugs and treatment options, as well as a wide array of clinical trials, both at NorthShore and through the University of Chicago, where more than 800 of our attending physicians hold academic appointments. NorthShore's experts in colon and rectal cancer are active participants and leaders in regional and national research, academic and advocacy organizations.

NorthShore’s nationally recognized Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system offers a data warehouse that enables physicians and researchers to integrate molecular and genomics data with clinical data to determine a patient’s best course of treatment. This information—specific to each patient—helps create an individually tailored treatment plan based on the patient’s genetic makeup and type of cancer. This analysis is yielding new insights into complex diseases and identifying opportunities to improve patient outcomes,  as well as addressing the risk factors in individual and family medical histories. Our extensive tumor bank supports both tumor profiling and the effort by NorthShore’s Center for Molecular Medicine to develop an early warning system for various types of cancer.

NorthShore is the first in the nation to provide our patients and their family members with Health Heritage, a secure tool that helps individuals create a complete family health history and personalized risk reports.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information on colorectal cancer screening and treatment or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.