Colon and Rectal Cancer

Dr. Deirdre Hart, elective colon and rectal surgeon, discusses colon and rectal cancer.

What if colon cancer is found?

If a colon cancer is found during your colonoscopy, there is a staging workup to see if the cancer has spread. Then, there's other things we can do to decide if we need to do surgery to remove a section of your colon or if you need other treatments first. That's a process we can go through together step by step.

How do rectal and colon cancers differ?

Rectal cancers and colon cancers are treated differently. Colon cancers are cancers in your ascending, transverse, descending colon or sigmoid and are not treated with radiation. They're treated with chemotherapy and resection or removing that portion of your colon. Rectal cancers are, depending on the stage, treated with radiation and chemotherapy prior to surgery to shrink them and decrease your chances of it recurring in the same spot. The difference with rectal cancer is also where it's located. It is close to your sphincter muscles, or the muscles that control your ability to hold in your stools. So depending on how close or far it is from those can change the surgery.

How can the cancer location change surgery?

If we can remove your rectum, leave your sphincter muscles, and reconnect you, you can continue to have bowel movements the way you're used to. Or if it's involving the sphincter muscles and those need to be removed as well, you need a permanent colostomy.

What can be done to prevent rectal cancer?

Your rectum is part of what's looked at during your colonoscopy. We look at your colon and your rectum at that time. Family history, genetics, and different things increase your risk of colon or rectal cancer. It goes back to getting your screening colonoscopy. If you are having rectal bleeding, that is abnormal. Whether it be we need to do a colonoscopy, we need to look and see what's going on, but rectal bleeding is abnormal, and you need to see your physician.