Colorectal Cancer Treatment in St. Helena

Treatment for cancer in the colon and/or rectum

Colorectal cancer affects roughly one in 21 men and one in 23 women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. While it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and the third in men, survival rates are improving thanks to early detection and improved treatments. The earliest signs of colorectal cancer are changes in bowel habits. You should consult your doctor if you experience diarrhea, constipation or other irregularities for longer than four weeks.

Colorectal cancer usually begins as a polyp, which is an irregular growth in the organs. Polyps can become cancerous if left untreated. The primary means of detecting polyps of the rectum and anus is through a colonoscopy.

Be aware of the risk factors

Though we do not know the exact cause of cancer, there are patterns that have helped us identify several risk factors. Knowing what these are can help you make informed decisions about your healthcare, including when to visit the doctor or schedule a colonoscopy.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Being over the age of 50
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Radiation therapy that was used to treat other cancers
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions
  • A personal history with colon polyps
  • Heavy alcohol use

Colorectal cancer rates are also higher among African Americans. Discuss your risk factors with your doctor so that they can set up a screening routine. Knowing your risk factors and having a scheduled screening greatly increases your chances of detecting the cancer early.

Planning your treatment

Colorectal cancer is usually treated with surgery. Any tumors or lymph nodes affected by the cancer will be removed to prevent it from spreading.

Bowels can usually be repaired after surgery, but some patients may need a colostomy bag if the surgery was extensive. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used to shrink the tumor and make surgery more manageable.

You will need the help of an experienced oncologist to create your cancer care plan. At Martin O’Neil Cancer Center, we take your needs and goals into consideration when planning treatment. This is not a journey you need to make alone.