Colon Cancer Treatment on Staten Island, NY
Colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States. While most patients are diagnosed after age 50, colon cancer can affect anyone at any age. Even though colon cancer is usually treatable, early detection is extremely important.
Located on Staten Island, New York, the oncology department at Richmond University Medical Center offers advanced treatment options for colon cancer. Our board-certified physicians and experienced medical staff use cutting-edge techniques to deliver personalized cancer care. Learn more about risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options for colon cancer.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Formally known as colorectal cancer, colon cancer develops when clusters of polyps form at the end of the digestive tract. These growths are initially benign but can grow and mutate into cancerous cells. They can develop in the large intestine (colon) or rectum. The most common type of colon cancer is adenocarcinoma, which starts as tumors that form in the lining of the rectum or colon. Less common forms of colorectal cancer include:
- Carcinoid tumors
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs)
- Primary colorectal lymphomas
Colon cancer is usually diagnosed with a colonoscopy, although patients may have additional testing such as a complete blood count (CBC) or a liver function test to further support the diagnosis.
Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
While colon cancer can affect patients of all backgrounds, certain factors increase a person’s risk. These factors include:
- Age: Diagnosis rates are highest among patients in their 60s and 70s.
- Alcohol use: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase a patient’s risk of developing cancer.
- Dietary choices: Eating a diet high in red meat and processed meat can increase a patient’s risk.
- Family history: Patients with a personal or family history of either colon polyps or colorectal cancer are more at risk. Additionally, inherited conditions like Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis increase the risk of developing colon cancer.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Patients with IBD, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are more at risk of colon cancer because of chronic inflammation in the colon lining.
- Racial and background: Jewish people of Eastern European descent and African Americans have particularly high rates of colorectal cancer.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight may reduce colon cancer risk.
- Smoking: Tobacco use increases a patient’s risk of colon cancer.
Hereditary risk factors cannot be controlled, but patients can reduce their risk by maintaining an active lifestyle, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and eating a balanced diet.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
Signs of colon cancer include:
- Blood in or on the stool
- Chronic abdominal pain or discomfort
- Feeling a need to defecate, even after using the bathroom
- Lasting changes in bowel habits
- Persistent constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Stomach bloating
- Unexplained weight loss
Some patients with colon cancer do not exhibit any symptoms at all, which is why regular screening is so important. For most patients, it is recommended to have an annual colon cancer screening starting at age 45. This procedure is known as a colonoscopy, during which the patient is sedated. A tiny video camera attached to a thin, flexible tube is used to capture images of the rectum and colon. During a colonoscopy, the provider can detect abnormalities, biopsy the tissue, and remove polyps if needed.
Staging of and Treatment for Colon Cancer
If a patient has been diagnosed with colon cancer, they may need additional tests, such as a CT scan, to determine how advanced the cancer is. This assessment is called staging. There are five stages of colon cancer:
- Stage 0: Cancer cells are limited to the inner layer of the colon or rectum.
- Stage I: Cancer has spread to the inner layers of the colon.
- Stage II: Cancer has spread through the colon but has not moved to nearby organs or tissue.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread beyond the colon to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread to lymph nodes and organs.
Depending on the stage, colon cancer treatment methods include:
Surgery is usually considered the most effective treatment option, especially for colon cancers in earlier stages. The procedure, known as surgical resection, removes the cancerous cells and then reconstructs the bowel if possible.
A patient’s surgery plan will depend on several factors, including the location of the tumor, how advanced the cancer is, and the patient’s overall health. Sometimes surgery is required to determine how far the cancer has spread. In some cases, preventative surgery may be recommended to remove abnormal polyps before they develop into cancer.
If the surgeon can remove the tumor completely and the cancer is in an early stage, the patient may not need additional treatment beyond ongoing monitoring appointments. However, the patient may need chemotherapy if cancer cells are detected in the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes. This type of cancer treatment can be administered as a pill or an intravenous (IV) treatment and uses therapeutic drugs to destroy cancerous cells throughout the body.
Chemotherapy may also be recommended before surgery since it can help shrink a tumor and make surgical resection is less invasive.
Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors. While radiation therapy is less common in colorectal cancer treatment, some patients benefit from chemoradiation following surgery, which is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
This type of cancer treatment uses medicines that help a patient’s immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy can be beneficial in some patients with more advanced stages of colon cancer. This treatment may be used in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
Some patients have pre-cancerous polyps that can be removed during a routine colonoscopy. This is called a polypectomy. If large polyps are removed, the provider may mark the polyp removal site with medical-grade ink so the area can be monitored in the future. A polypectomy can be a relatively non-invasive, effective treatment option for Stage 0 colorectal cancers.
Most patients who have surgical resection for colorectal cancer will need follow-up colonoscopies every one to three years after surgery. This allows a provider to check for new polyps and confirm that the cancer has not returned. Screening schedules will vary by patient. After surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, a patient will also have routine physical exams and may need blood work or imaging.
When it comes to colorectal cancer, early detection is crucial. The longer cancer grows undetected, the harder it is to treat and the more likely it is to spread to other parts of the body. The comprehensive cancer screening program at Richmond University Medical Center offers testing options to check for a wide range of cancers, including colon cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults aged 45 to 75 should receive regular screenings for colorectal cancer. Patients with certain risk factors, such as IBD or a family history of colon cancer, may need to get screened before they turn 45. There are several types of screening tests available:
- Colonoscopy: Performed while the patient is under anesthesia, this test uses a small, lighted camera on a catheter to check the colon for abnormalities.
- CT colonography: This imaging test uses computer tomography (CT) to produce images of the colon and rectum.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Quicker and less invasive than a traditional colonoscopy, a flexible sigmoidoscopy examines only the lower part of the colon.
- Stool testing: In this test, the patient collects a stool sample at home and sends it to a laboratory where it is tested for DNA changes that could indicate cancer or precancerous cells.
Lifestyle Changes for High-Risk Patients
Colorectal cancer may not be preventable, but patients can take steps to address certain risk factors. In addition to getting screened regularly, high-risk patients should:
- Quit smoking: A primary care provider can connect patients with smoking cessation resources.
- Eat a healthy diet: Cutting back on high-fat foods, red meat, and processed meat may lower the risk of colon cancer. In general, patients should strive to eat nutrient-dense foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
- Stay at a healthy weight: Obesity may increase colon cancer risk. Stay active and strive for 30 minutes of physical activity on most days.
Schedule a Screening or Seek Treatment at Richmond University Medical Center
After being diagnosed with cancer, it is normal for a patient and their loved ones to experience stress, anxiety, and worry. The oncologists and cancer specialists at Richmond University Medical Center will provide compassionate, personalized care for each patient who receives a colon cancer diagnosis.
Serving patients on Staten Island, New York, Richmond University Medical Center has a dedicated Center for Cancer Care so that patients can receive treatment close to home. The Center for Cancer Care offers innovative treatments like linear accelerator (LINAC) therapy and immunotherapy. Contact us today to request a referral or schedule an appointment.