Is colon cancer curable? Early detection is key

Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, is one of the few cancers we know how to prevent yet it's one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States. Leading causes of colon cancer include changes to the DNA inside a person's cells but also lifestyle factors and conditions such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in red meats and processed meats as well as heavy alcohol use and smoking. Women are just as likely as men to get colorectal cancer. If you smoke or are very overweight, you are also more at risk.

A routine colonoscopy (colon exam) can often detect colon polyps or abnormal growths in the large intestine, which can be easily removed before becoming cancerous. This routine exam is recommended for men and women starting at age 45, but people often put it off and polyps go undetected until cancer has formed and sometimes spread to other areas of the body. If you are worried about colon cancer but are concerned about getting a colonoscopy, be sure to read these frequently asked questions about colonoscopy and talk to your doctor about your concerns.

93 percent of our patients are able to avoid a colostomy bag after colorectal cancer surgery vs. the national average of 40 to 60 percent.

Are there any symptoms of colon cancer?

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms. Because colon polyps and potential cancer may go unnoticed for many years, it's even more important to get screened for colorectal problems on a regular basis. For those who develop symptoms, here are some possible indicators of colorectal cancer:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bloating
  • Bowel movements narrower than usual
  • Colorectal bleeding (bloody stool or bowel movement)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling like your bowel hasn't emptied completely
  • Frequent gas pains
  • Unexplained weight loss

These types of symptoms may indicate other conditions, not necessarily colorectal cancer. If you have a history of colon cancer in your family or you have symptoms that concern you, be sure to discuss it with a doctor.

Diagnosis of colon cancer and colorectal cancer treatments

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your treatment may include a combination of colorectal surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Your treatment plan will depend on the type, stage and size of the tumor, your prognosis as well as your ability to tolerate certain medical procedures and medications.

At our Colorectal Center in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, our world-renowned program includes groundbreaking treatments such as the Marks-Mohiuddin method, which has allowed 93 percent of our patients to avoid a colostomy bag, and transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM), a less invasive surgical technique pioneered here at Main Line Health.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.