Colon Cancer

  • Medical Center Campus
  • 111 Colchester Avenue
    Burlington, VT, 05401
  • Phone: 877-540-4673
  • Directions

Colon cancer most often starts as small, noncancerous clumps of cells (called adenomatous polyps). The polyps may be small with few, if any, symptoms, but they may eventually develp into colon cancer. That's why doctors recommend regular screening tests, such as colonoscopy, to identify polyps before they become cancerous.

Colon Cancer: What You Need to Know

Prevention

You can lower your risk of colon cancer by getting regular screenings, such as colonoscopy, after age 50 if you have an average risk and sooner if you're at increased risk. You can also take charge of your health by adopting a healthy lifestyle:

  • Eat a mix of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week
  • Achieve and stay at a healthy weight
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Quit smoking – Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program

Teamwork

Colon cancer is best managed by a group of specialists that includes gastroenterologists, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, nurses and cancer patient support specialists. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.

Technology

Our team offers specialized services to diagnose and treat colon cancer, including colonoscopy and endoscopic removal of colorectal polyps. Learn more about diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer at Fletcher Allen.

Personalized Care

Our nurse navigators are here to help coordinate your care and streamline your overall experience. Our skilled nurses will help you through the clinical aspects of your care, scheduling initial tests and consultations with the appropriate physicians, providing education regarding your diagnosis and treatment plan, and acting as a single point of contact for you and your family. We also assist with the logistics of your care, helping you find the resources you need, and providing support for transportation, financial and insurance issues.

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Your colon is the large intestine, which is the lower part of your digestive system. You may have heard the term colorectal cancer, which is both colon and rectal cancer. Your rectum is the last several inches of the colon.

Colon cancer occurs when healthy cells in the colon change to grow uncontrollably. This extra growth may encourage precancerous cells to form in the lining of your intestine. Clumps of precancerous cells are called polyps, and they can be mushroom-shaped.  Precancerous growths also can be flat or sunken into the wall of the colon (called nonpolypoid lesions).

Many people with colon cancer have no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Colon cancer symptoms also are likely to vary depending on the cancer's size and where it is in your large intestine. They may include:

  • Bowel movement changes, such as:
       - Diarrhea
       - Constipation
       - A change in the size or consistency of your stool
  • Blood in your stool or rectal bleeding
  • Frequent abdominal discomfort, such as:
       - Cramps
       - Gas
       - Pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

In most cases, the exact cause of colon cancer is unknown, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it,including:

  • Age: Roughly 90 percent of people are older than age 50 at diagnosis
  • Race: African-Americans and Native Americans are more likely to have colon cancer
  • Chronic inflammatory intestinal conditions, such as:
       - Ulcerative colitis
       - Crohn's disease
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps: If you've already had colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps, you're more likely to develop colon cancer in the future
  • Family history of colon cancer and colon polyps
  • Inherited syndromes, including:
       - Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
       - Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC or also called Lynch syndrome)
  • Radiation therapy for previous abdominal cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Being obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Eating a high-fat, low-fiber diet
  • Cigarette smoking: Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Heavy alcohol use

Diagnosis and Treatment: Colon Cancer

Learn more about colon cancer diagnosis and treatment at Fletcher Allen.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call us at 877-540-HOPE (4673).