Colon cancer remains the most common cancer affecting men and women, with more than 95,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. The board-certified, fellowship-trained surgical team at San Diego Colon and Rectal Surgeons in La Jolla, California, offers the highest standard of care to help you achieve remission. Keith Beiermeister, MD, FACS, FASCRS, and M. Jonathan Worsey, MD, FRCS, FACS, FASCRS, take a comprehensive and compassionate approach to treating cancer. They offer the latest treatments, including surgery, to help you recover fully. Schedule a colon cancer consultation online or by calling San Diego Colon and Rectal Surgeons today.

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What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer begins in the colon (large intestine) and typically starts out as noncancerous growths called polyps. Polyps can increase in size over time and eventually become cancerous.

There’s no clear understanding of what causes colon cancer. However, it is known that your risk of developing colon cancer increases if you’re over 50, have a family history of colon cancer, and you’ve had other types of cancer.

Risk factors of colon cancer include:

Smoking history
Lack of exercise
A high-fat, low-fiber diet
Chronic inflammatory conditions affecting your digestive tract, like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, also increase your risk of developing colon cancer.

What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

When you first develop polyps on the lining of your colon, you’ll probably have no symptoms. As the polyps grow larger, they can cause changes in your bowel habits.

Other symptoms of colon cancer include:

Weight loss
Rectal bleeding
Chronic fatigue
Abdominal cramps
Nausea and vomiting

You might also feel like your bowel never fully empties after a bowel movement.

How is colon cancer diagnosed?

To evaluate your symptoms and determine if you have cancerous polyps, Dr. Worsey and Dr. Beiermeister use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools.

The primary diagnostic procedure is a colonoscopy, which requires outpatient bowel preparation and is scheduled in the endoscopy center. The doctor inserts a long, flexible tube with an attached camera into your anal canal. The camera sends real-time images of the inside of your colon to a monitor so that the doctor can identify polyps and other abnormalities.

The doctor can also pass special surgical tools through the tube to biopsy (take a sample of) the polyps and surrounding colon tissue. This tissue is sent to a lab to see if cancer cells are present.

Because smaller polyps usually cause no symptoms but can develop into cancer, a colonoscopy can be used to screen for cancer. Colon cancer screenings are especially important if you have a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors for the disease.

How is colon cancer treated?

The standard way to treat colon cancer is to surgically remove the cancerous polyps. Dr. Beiermeister and Dr. Worsey use minimally invasive surgery to remove tumors and nearby lymph nodes, along with a portion of your colon near the tumor.

If they have to remove a large portion of your colon or it is unsafe to make the connection, the surgeons may consider a colostomy. This creates an opening to connect part of your colon to the skin of the abdominal wall. This opening allows waste to leave your body and collect in an attached bag.

In some cases, you’ll need to undergo chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancerous cells depending on the stage of your cancer. Chemotherapy for colon cancer is always given after your surgery as long as the preoperative workup does not reveal spread outside the colon at the time of diagnosis. Dr. Worsey and Dr. Beiermeister continue to monitor your recovery and reduce your risk of the cancer returning.

To schedule a diagnostic evaluation for colon cancer, call San Diego Colon and Rectal Surgeons or request an appointment through the online booking feature today.