Colon cancer, which is often referred to as colorectal cancer, is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon).
Most colon cancers begin as non-cancerous polyps. If left untreated, these benign growths can slowly develop into cancer. While there is no single cause for colon cancer, some factors can increase your risk for colon cancer, including:
- Cancer elsewhere in the body
- Colorectal polyps
- Crohn's disease
- Family history of colon cancer
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Ulcerative colitis
Other factors that can increase the risk of developing colon cancer include age (colorectal cancer is more likely to occur as people get older), cigarette smoking, and a high-fat diet.
The most important way to protect yourself from colon cancer is to have a colonoscopy or other cancer screening test starting at age 50, or sooner if you have a family history of the disease. Colonoscopy allows your physician to identify polyps or other abnormal areas of the colon and study or remove them completely. If cancer is present, colonscopy usually finds it in the early stages and allows for a better chance of full recovery.
If diagnosed early, colon cancer is almost always treatable. Treatment for colorectal cancer depends partly on the stage of the cancer. In general, treatments may include: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery.
Colorectal surgery may be performed using conventional (open) or laparoscopic techniques. Both methods are highly-effective, but the laparoscopic colorectal surgery is quickly becoming the preferred surgical technique because it is less invasive, so recovery time is dramatically reduced. If you are a candidate for colorectal surgery, your doctor can help you understand which surgical option is right for you.
St. Francis physicians perform both conventional colorectal surgery and minimally-invasive laparoscopic colorectal surgery at St. Francis eastside and St. Francis downtown in Greenville, SC. Our convenient locations serve the Upstate, SC and surrounding areas.