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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 specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combine the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care. They create a program of personalized medicine and patient-centered care for each individual diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

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 Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancer Risk and Prevention Program uniquely offers a team of gastroenterologists, dietitians, nurses and other healthcare professionals focused on GI cancer prevention in women. Female patients who have been referred for a colonoscopy or want to discuss ways to reduce colorectal cancer risk have the opportunity to consult with female specialists.

Colorectal Cancer Screening, Diagnosis and Risk Factors 

The primary risk factor for colon and rectal cancer is age. More than 90 percent of cases are 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. For these individuals, screening may need to begin at a younger age.

NorthShore’s emphasis on early detection allows our experienced team of specialists to diagnose a greater proportion of early stage colorectal cancer cases. This increases the odds for successful colon and rectal cancer treatment using minimally invasive techniques.

A variety of colorectal cancer screenings may be recommended to obtain a diagnosis, including:

  • Colonoscopy (recommended)
  • Digital rectal exam
  • Fecal occult and immunochemical tests to detect blood or blood proteins in the stool

If these tests suggest colorectal cancer, other tests, including endoscopic tests, such as colonoscopy and endoscopic ultrasound, may follow. Imaging, such as CT and MRI scans, may also be recommended.

NorthShore features a comprehensive onsite pathology lab. This in-house resource yields swift results determining the severity (stage) of the cancer, the genomic and molecular profile of the cancer and any additional features that could help determine therapy. Our pathology resources allow our physicians 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. 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.

Our multidisciplinary team meets regularly in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss your 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.

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.

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.