Expert colon cancer care focused on your needs.
What you need to know
Cancers that start in the colon and rectum are called colorectal cancers. These two cancers are often grouped together because they are similar, but colon cancer is far more common than rectal cancer. Often the terms colon cancer and colorectal cancer are used interchangeably.
Excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States. The lifetime risk for men for developing it is one in 22 — for women one in 24.
The good news is that deaths from these cancers have been dropping in recent decades. There are now more than one million colorectal cancer survivors living in the United States. Advancements in early detection and treatment have improved survival rates.
Understand your diagnosis
To plan treatment for colon cancer, doctors need to know how much the disease has spread and whether the tumor can be surgically removed. Tests can also help your doctor understand your cancer stage.
Cancer staging includes identifying where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and if it is affecting other parts of your body. Knowing the stage allows your doctor to develop your personalized treatment plan.
Your doctor may use one or more of the following tests:
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) assay: Test measuring the level of CEA in the blood. Sometimes high levels are a sign of cancer. However, CEA is not always increased with colon or rectal cancers.
- Chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI or positron emission tomography (PET): Imaging technology to look inside the body.
- Other tests: Additional blood tests or surgery may also help your doctor guide your treatment.
Customized treatment plans
Because each person and every cancer is different, your doctor uses your tests and exams to come up with an individual treatment plan. How long this takes depends on how complex your case is and your treatment goals. During this time, you build a relationship with your cancer doctors. You become a team for your care.
Open, honest communication can only benefit your relationship with your doctors. These tips can also help you get the most from this partnership:
- Prepare in advance: Write down your questions ahead of your visits. A few examples of smart questions:
- Why are we doing these tests?
- Why do you think this treatment is right?
- What side effects might this treatment cause?
- Find trustworthy resources: If you’re looking to learn more, rely on this website or sources your team recommends, so you can make decisions based on good information.
- Take a partner: Bringing a friend or family member to appointments can make you feel more confident and help you remember important details.
Your treatment will vary depending your diagnosis, which takes into account the location and stage of the cancer and your age and general health. The treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation or a combination of these. Legacy Cancer Institute provides compassion, expertise and a treatment plan for you.
Our cancer experts are supported by an entire team that includes oncologists, nurse navigators, physician assistants and others, all working together for you.
Talk to your doctor to see if clinical trials may be right for you.
You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.