Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of new cancer cases and cancer deaths in Maine. The disease is sometimes called colorectal cancer, or cancer that forms in the colon or rectum. MaineHealth provides screening, diagnosis, and treatment for colon cancer and all gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. Screenings for colon cancer can be close to home at community hospitals and specialty practices. Our physician specialists include board-certified colorectal surgeons.
Importance of Screenings
Most colon cancers develop from polyps that can turn into cancer. Screenings can find polyps before they are cancer. People at average risk of colon cancer are recommended for screening starting at age 50. Talk to your provider about scheduling a screening. Some people may be at higher risk and need to be screened earlier:
People who have close relatives with cancer
Patients with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
Certain genetic syndromes
Lifestyle factors: obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, eating a lot of red meat and fatty foods
Finding a Colorectal Cancer Specialist
If your provider thinks you may have cancer, you will be asked to see specialists who evaluate and treat colon cancer:
Medical oncologists treat cancer using medicine (chemotherapy, targeted therapy, biotherapy and/or immunotherapy) rather than radiation.
Doctors recommend that people 50 and older (younger if there is a family history) have regular colon cancer screenings. Colon Cancer Screenings help prevent and detect colon cancer. Early detection is a patient’s best chance for successful treatment and recovery.
Colonoscopy and FIT tests are the standard screening for colon cancer. During a colonoscopy, doctors look for signs of cancer and also remove any polyps that may have formed in a patient’s colon. Removing polyps, or small growths, before they turn into cancer is the best way to prevent colon cancer. A screening colonoscopy if negative is repeated every 10 years.
The FIT test requires the collection of a stool sample that is tested and this needs to be repeated annually.
Other screenings for colon cancer can include flexible sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood test, fecal immunoassay (FIT test), double contrast barium enema, CT colonography (or virtual colonoscopy).
Treatment for colon cancer varies depending on cancer stage and type. Complementary and integrative therapies, while not primary treatment options can be discussed with our providers. The size of the cancer and how far it has spread will affect treatment options. Common treatments include: