Colon Cancer (Colorectal Cancer)

COLON CANCER (COLORECTAL CANCER), colon cancer awareness


Colorectal cancer is a disease that develops when cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. When polyps, or abnormal growths, form in the colon or rectum, they may become cancerous. Screening tests can be used to detect polyps at an early stage, making removal possible before cancer develops. Colon and rectal cancers are often grouped together this way because of the common features they share. 



Colorectal cancer forms when the DNA in the colon’s or rectum’s cells mutates, making it unable to regulate growth and division. The immune system attacks these cells in most instances, but in others, the mutated cells escape. They continue growing out of control and form tumors in the colon or rectum. While the exact cause of colorectal cancer remains unknown, these lifestyle habits may increase the chances of developing it: 

  • Diet
  • Tobacco use
  • Smoking 
  • Heavy alcohol use 

Also, people with certain hereditary cancer syndromes or a family history of colorectal cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease.


The following factors may increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer:

Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include the following:

  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • A diet lacking in fruit and vegetables
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco usage


Colorectal polyps (abnormal growths that may turn cancerous) and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially in the earliest stages. This makes regular, preventative screenings even more crucial. In patients with symptoms, the following are most common:

  • An unexplained change in bowel habits
  • Blood in or on the stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel is not emptied all the way
  • Abdominal pain or persistent cramping
  • Unintentional weight loss 

If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your Charleston GI specialist as soon as possible. 


Many people with colon cancer do not experience any symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms become evident, they often depend on the size of the cancer as well as its location in the large intestine. Schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist if you notice any of the symptoms listed above.


After a colon cancer diagnosis, your GI doctor may recommend further testing to determine the extent of your cancer – ranging from stage 0 (lowest threat, limited to colon lining) to stage IV (advanced has spread to other areas). By determining its stage, your gastroenterologist can create a treatment plan just for you.

Staging tests may include imaging procedures, like abdominal, pelvic and chest CT scans. In many cases, the stage of your cancer may not be confirmed until after surgery.


Treatment for colon cancer is based largely on the cancer’s stage. In patients whose cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, surgery is typically the primary approach to treatment. Chemotherapy may also be used post-surgery (called adjuvant treatment), usually for about 6 months. For further details on best treatment options for you, speak with a board certified gastroenterologist directly. 


  • Routine Screenings
    Colorectal cancer screenings can save lives, and are recommended routinely, starting at age 45. 
  • Positive Lifestyle Changes
    Increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco can reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Healthy Diet
    GI specialists often recommend a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.


  • In 2019, 142,462 new cases of colon and rectum cancer were reported in the U.S., with 51,896 fatalities.
  • For every 100,000 people, 36 new colorectal cancer cases were reported and 13 colorectal cancer deaths.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, ranking behind heart disease. One of every five deaths in the United States is due to cancer.
  • About 7 out of 10 adults 50-75 are up-to-date with colon cancer screenings in the U.S.
  • On average, people who are American Indian/Alaska Native or Black/African American are most affected.



Who treats colorectal cancer?

A patient’s comprehensive treatment team may include the following specialists:

  • Gastroenterologist: a doctor who treats gastrointestinal tract conditions.
  • Surgical oncologist: a surgeon who treats cancer.
  • Colorectal surgeon: a doctor who uses surgery to treat the colon or rectum.
  • Radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer using radiation therapy.
  • Medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

What are some common signs of colon cancer? 

It is important to get regular screening for colorectal cancer because oftentimes, a person could have polyps or colorectal cancer and be unaware. Some signs and symptoms to be alert to may include: 

  • A change in bowel habits.
  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel won't empty completely.
  • Abdominal pain (ex. aches or cramps that won't stop)
  • Unexplained weight loss

Who is at higher risk than others for facing colon cancer? 

Indeed, there are people who are at increased risk due to following factors: 

It is vital these individuals start screening earlier than age 45. So, if you suspect that you're at increased risk of colon cancer, you should speak with PCP or board certified gastroenterologist about getting early screening sooner than age 45.

Where is the first place colon cancer spreads?

Often colon cancer  spreads to the liver first. Although, it can spread to other places in the body like the lungs, brain, peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity), or to distant lymph nodes.

How long can you have colon cancer without knowing?

More commonly colon cancer is known to grow slowly. It begins as a benign polyp then becomes malignant. The process can take place for many years without any symptoms. However, once colon cancer has appeared, it could possibly still take years to detect. This is why regular screening for cancer is so important. 

So, begin by scheduling an appointment for a colonoscopy at Charleston GI today, no referral needed!

What foods should colon cancer patients avoid?  

  • Red meat
  • Processed meats
  • White bread
  • Sugary beverages
  • Dairy products

Which type of diet is recommended for colon cancer patients? 

Here at Charleston GI, our gastroenterologists suggest a high-fiber diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and fish. Colorectal cancer survivors should be sure their diet includes the following:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Low-sugar beverages
  • Probiotics (healthy bacteria)   
  • Soft or processed produce

Is colon cancer curable at stage 1?

Yes, colon cancer can be cured at stage 1!

At this early stage, the cancer is limited to the inner lining of the colon and hasn't spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes. It hasn't gone beyond the walls of the colon into the belly area. The exciting news is that approximately 90% of patients can achieve a complete cure with surgery alone. No additional treatments are necessary!

Therefore, at stage 1, there is a high likelihood that the cancer won't return, allowing patients to continue living a healthy life.

Is colon cancer curable at stage 2?

Yes, definitely! Stage 2 colon cancer, also known as adenocarcinoma, is a common type of cancer that can be treated successfully. The chances of a cure vary based on certain characteristics of the cancer, but about 60-75% of patients can be cured with surgery alone, without requiring any additional treatment.

Stage 2 cancer can be further classified into two sub-stages: Stage IIA and Stage IIB. These sub-stages help doctors decide on the best treatment plan for each patient. The great news is that many individuals with stage 2 colon cancer can overcome the disease and prevent it from coming back, offering them an opportunity to live a healthy and cancer-free life.

Can colon cancer be cured at stage 3?

Yes! Stage III colon cancer, also known as adenocarcinoma, is a common type of cancer that can be cured. The cure rate varies depending on the characteristics of the cancer, and around 40-50% of patients can be cured with surgery alone, without any evidence of cancer coming back.

Surgical removal of the cancer is a crucial part of the treatment for patients with stage III colon cancer, and many patients are cured with this approach alone. The conventional surgical procedure involves opening the pelvis and/or abdomen to access the large intestine. This surgery is often effective in removing the cancer and increasing the chances of a cure.

What age should I get a colon cancer screening?

The recommended age to begin regular screening is 45. This age is crucial because it plays a key role in preventing colorectal cancer and detecting it early. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force), all adults between the ages of 45 and 75 should undergo screening for colorectal cancer. For those aged 76 to 85, it's advised to have a conversation with their doctor about screening.

The Task Force suggests several screening strategies for colorectal cancer, which include stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy). It's important to learn about these screening tests to understand their benefits and choose the most suitable option for you.

Does medical insurance often cover colon cancer screenings?

Possibly! Colorectal cancer screening tests may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay. It is best to speak with your healthcare provider directly for further clarity. 

For Medicare patients, you can get more information about your Medicare coverage by visiting or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

How often should I get screened for colorectal cancer?

The frequency of your screening will depend on two important factors: your risk for colorectal cancer and the specific screening test you opt for.

To get a clear understanding of how often you should be screened, it's best to have a direct conversation with a board-certified gastroenterologist or your primary care physician (PCP) based on the information provided above. They will be able to assess your individual risk factors and guide you on the most suitable screening schedule for your situation.

How do I know which Colorectal Cancer Screening Test is best for me?

It is best to speak with a board-certified gastroenterologist or your PCP for the advantages and disadvantages of each test. The best test for you could depend on the following:

What questions should I ask my doctor about colon cancer screening?

When it comes to colon cancer and screening tests, there are some important questions to ask your doctor:

  • Do I need to undergo a screening test for colorectal cancer?
  • Which screening test(s) do you recommend for me, and why?
  • How do I prepare for the test? Do I need to make any changes to my diet or usual medications before taking the test?
  • What can I expect during the test? Will it be uncomfortable or painful?
  • Are there any risks involved in the screening?
  • When and from whom can I expect to receive the test results?

For those having a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, it's also good to inquire about the following:

  • Who will perform the exam?
  • Will I need someone to accompany me during the procedure?

By asking these questions, you'll gain a better understanding of the screening process and ensure that you're well-prepared and informed about your colorectal health. You can begin to schedule an appointment at Charleston GI today, we can't wait to help you!

How well does getting a colonoscopy prevent colorectal cancer? 

It's actually quite effective! 

Proven studies show that undergoing a colonoscopy procedure is linked to a significant 69% reduction in new cases of colorectal cancer. Not only that, but it also reduces the risk of death from colorectal cancer by an impressive 88%. 

So, getting a colonoscopy can be a powerful tool in safeguarding against this type of cancer and potentially saving lives. You can begin to schedule an appointment at Charleston GI today, no referral needed!

Does it hurt to get a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a mildly invasive procedure that is not painful.

Indeed, preparing for a colonoscopy can be unpleasant, but most people agree that the benefits to their health outweigh any discomfort. And getting anesthesia means you won’t have any pain or feel uncomfortable during the test. 

Plus, Charleston GI offers a customer-focused, clean and calming atmosphere to make sure each patient is comfortable and gets the utmost care. Schedule an appointment today, no referral needed! 


To learn more about treatment for GI tract issues in Charleston, SC, get in touch today! Charleston Gastroenterology is committed to a higher standard of caring – and we provide a range of medical treatments to help you feel your best.

If you are experiencing painful gi tract symptoms or signs of a digestive system cancer, schedule your appointment today! No referral needed.