Colon Cancer | Colorectal Cancer

Our Approach to Colorectal Cancer Care

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.

Finding a Colorectal Cancer Specialist

  • Medical oncologists treat cancer using medicine (chemotherapy, targeted therapy, biotherapy and/or immunotherapy) rather than radiation.
  • Radiation oncologists use high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue.
  • Surgeons focus on the surgical management of cancer
  • Cancer Patient Navigators  put the patient first, helping you and your loved ones connect to resources and services.

Learn more about our approach to colorectal cancer.

Why do I need so many doctors?

It is important that cancer specialists highly trained in their area of care participate in evaluating your diagnosis and planning your treatment.

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Colon cancer signs can vary

Symptoms of colon cancer can depend on the size of the tumor and its location in the lower GI tract.

Common signs are:

  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Blood in the stool (bright red or black)
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling tired or rundown
  • Stomach discomfort

Colon Cancer Diagnosis

Diagnosing colon cancer

Doctors recommend that people 50 and older (younger if there is a family history) have regular colon cancer screenings. 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).

Colon Cancer Treatments

Colon cancer therapies can vary

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:

  • Surgery

  • Radiation

  • Chemotherapy

  • Targeted therapies

  • Clinical trials

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