Colorectal Cancer


Colorectal cancer is relatively common. It’s the third most diagnosed cancer in the U.S., affecting about the same number of men and women each year.

Like other types of cancer, colorectal cancer can be deadly if left untreated. But unlike most cancers, it’s largely preventable. Colorectal cancer can be detected and removed early, when it’s still considered “pre-cancerous.”

What is Colorectal Cancer?

The colon and rectum are two organs that aid digestion. They sit next to each other inside your large intestine. Together they help your body get rid of solid waste.

Your cancer may be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on which organ it started in. Doctors also refer to these cancers jointly as colorectal cancer. Both may spread to the other organ, and they share similar symptoms. These include:

  • A change in bowel habits, including persistent constipation or diarrhea
  • Blood in your stool
  • Rectal bleeding (you may notice bright red blood on your toilet paper)
  • Feeling like your bowel won’t empty completely
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusual fatigue

Most colorectal cancer begins as small growths called polyps. It can take years for polyps to develop into cancer, and they usually don’t cause symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have regular screening exams. Tests including colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy can find and remove polyps before they have a chance to turn into cancer.

If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you doctor may perform special genetic tests and recommend you receive screening exams more often and at a younger age.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment at Mercy

If you have colorectal cancer, it’s natural to have concerns. But you can also have hope. Mercy offers the latest treatments for all types of colorectal cancer, no matter how advanced.

Each person we serve is unique. So is the treatment plan we’ll develop with and for you. You may need one or more treatments, depending on the stage of your cancer and whether it has spread. These include:

  • Staging, Pelvic MRI for rectal cancer with endoscopic ultrasound
  • Medication, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy.
  • Radiation treatments
  • Surgery to remove polyps, a tumor, part of an organ or an entire organ. Robotic surgery using minimally invasive technology may also be used.

If surgery is needed to remove some (or all) of an organ, your colon or rectum may no longer work properly. To address this, your doctor will perform a type of surgery called a colostomy. It creates a new way for waste to leave your body. Depending on the extent of your surgery and recovery, your colostomy may be temporary or permanent.

Facing cancer is intimidating. And treatment, including major surgery, can cause extra anxiety. At Mercy, you’ll find the expert care and emotional support you need to get through this. We’ll help you conquer your fears—and your cancer.

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