Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in your colon or rectum, the two lower parts of your large intestine. Depending on where it appears, it's also called colon cancer or rectal cancer.
Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Symptoms
Most of the time, colorectal cancer doesn't cause symptoms early on. But it can sometimes cause the following, especially in later stages:
- Diarrhea, constipation, narrow stool or other bowel movement changes
- No feeling of relief after a bowel movement
- Blood in your stool or when you wipe
- Abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas or pain
- Fatigue or weakness
- Unintended weight loss
Having these symptoms doesn't usually mean you have colorectal cancer. But if they persist for more than a few days, you should see a primary care provider. If necessary, your primary care provider can refer you to a colon and rectal cancer specialist at Rush.
Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Screening and Risk Assessment at Rush
When it's diagnosed early, colorectal cancer can be cured in 90% of cases.
Because colorectal cancer doesn't always have symptoms in its early stages, experts recommend regular screening for most people over 50. (Ninety percent of diagnoses happen after age 50). If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to start screening even earlier.
Here's what to do at every age:
- If you're 50 to 75 years old: Talk with a primary care provider or gastroenterologist about which screening tests are right for you. Everyone in this age group can benefit from colon cancer screening.
- If you're 76 or older: Talk with a primary care provider or gastroenterologist about whether you should be screened. Some people older than 76 can benefit from colon cancer screening, especially if they've never been screened before.
- If you have a family history of colon cancer: Talk with a primary care provider or schedule an appointment with the Rush high-risk GI cancer clinic in Chicago. The clinic offers services for people whose parents or siblings have had colorectal cancer, among others with a higher-than-average risk.
Rush offers several colorectal cancer screening options. These range from a fecal occult blood test (which requires only a stool sample) to a colonoscopy.
Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Treatment at Rush
The right treatment for you depends on your cancer's location, its size and whether it has spread. Experts at Rush will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your specific diagnosis and preferences.
Whenever possible, we aim to cure your cancer while preserving bowel function and improving your quality of life. To achieve these goals, we may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Removal of the cancer with surgery or endoscopy: Experts at Rush perform a variety of procedures that can remove the cancer or the affected part of the intestine. If colorectal cancer is caught before it has spread, one of these procedures can often cure it. Whenever possible, colon and rectal surgeons and interventional gastroenterologists at Rush use minimally invasive or endoscopic techniques. Because they require only a small incision or no incision, these techniques can lead to faster recovery and less pain.
- Medical therapies: Rush offers chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapies for colorectal cancers. Your care team at Rush may recommend one of these therapies.
- Radiation therapy: Your care team at Rush may recommend radiation therapy before or after surgery. Radiation oncologists at Rush use radiation therapy techniques that target the tumor precisely, which can prevent damage to surrounding tissue.
- Complementary therapies: The supportive oncology program and Waterford Place offer services to help you cope with pain and recover faster. These include acupuncture, massage and many other options.
Throughout treatment, your team at Rush will listen to your goals and help guide you from diagnosis through recovery.
Rush Excellence in Colorectal Cancer Care
- Nationally ranked experts: U.S. News & World Report has ranked Rush University Medical Center among the nation's top 50 hospitals for GI surgery, gastroenterology and cancer. At Rush, you'll have access to some of the very best surgeons and colorectal cancer experts in the country.
- Minimally invasive options: Whenever possible, our surgeons perform procedures using small incisions, so you have less pain, shorter recovery times and reduced scarring. Rush surgeons are among a small handful who offer transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM). TEM allows surgeons to remove small tumors in the rectum through the anus. After TEM, patients usually go home the same day and have a quick recovery.
- Expert genetic testing and counseling: If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your care team may recommend genetic testing and counseling through our GI cancer high-risk clinic.
- Faster, easier recovery after surgery: Colon and rectal surgeons at Rush will guide you through specially designed procedures to help you recover faster after surgery. Called enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS), these procedures involve drinking plenty of fluids, taking specific kinds of painkillers and more. With ERAS, you're likely to feel better sooner and have a shorter hospital stay. You're also less likely to need narcotic medications to relieve pain after surgery.