Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States for men and women combined, according to the American Cancer Society. If you are diagnosed with colon cancer or rectal cancer, your treatment plan will depending on the type of tumor you have. Below are 4 important questions to ask your doctor if you’re diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

1. What type of colorectal cancer do I have?

Not all colon cancers are the same. In fact, there are many types of colon cancer. It is important to understand the type of cancer you have as treatment depends on your diagnosis.

The most common type of colon cancer is an adenocarcinoma which accounts for more than 90% of colon cancer cases. Adenocarcinoma forms from the cells that help produce the mucus that lines the colon or rectum and can spread to other areas of the body. Other colon cancers include carcinoid tumors and on a rare occasion, gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

2. How serious is my cancer?

The severity of colon cancer depends on the stage of cancer. These stages are determined by the size of your cancer, and if it has spread to other cells and lymph nodes. When speaking with your doctor, it’s important to ask your stage of cancer, as this impacts your treatment options.

Stage 0: Abnormal cells are found in the inner lining of the colon.

Stage 1: Cancer has formed and spread within the rectal wall.

Stage 2: Cancer has spread outside of the rectal walls into the surrounding fat or nearby tissue.

Stage 3: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but not spread to other parts of the body.

Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs or ovaries.

3. What are my treatment options?

If you are diagnosed with colon cancer, depending on the stage of your disease, your doctor may recommend one treatment option or a combination of treatment options.

Options could include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Minimally Invasive Laparoscopic or Robotic Surgery
  • Targeted therapies such as innovative drugs
  • Advanced radiation therapies

4. What support services are available?

If you are diagnosed with colon cancer, you’re not alone in the fight against cancer! There are many support services available to help you through your treatment journey. Asking your doctor about these available resources is an important step to getting all the help you need.

At the Saint John’s Cancer Institute, we provide cancer support services for our patients and their families. From psychiatry, to nutrition, to social work services, we are your partners in care and use a multi-disciplinary approach to meet your individual needs based on your condition, requirements, and situation.

At our Center for Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Tumors, every patient receives personalized care from an expert team of doctors and nurses who focus exclusively on your particular type of cancer. We work together to identify the subtle characteristics of your disease in order to provide an accurate diagnosis for the best treatment options to help you win the fight against cancer.

Schedule an appointment with our world class experts for personalized, patient care today!

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Interested in learning more? Check out our blog to learn how to prevent colon cancer through diet and lifestyle changes.

How to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

About the Author

Dr. Anton Bilchik

Anton J. Bilchik, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, FACS, is the Professor of Surgery, Chief of General Surgery, and Director of Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Program at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Anton J. Bilchik, MD is an internationally recognized surgeon and scientist who has pioneered techniques to improve staging cancer and minimally invasive approaches to improve outcomes. Learn More About Dr. Anton Bilchik.

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