Colon Cancer

Colon cancer care at Scripps Health in San Diego

Scripps Health provides expert care for the treatment of colon cancer.

Colon cancer care at Scripps Health in San Diego

It’s a fact: No one cares for more patients with colon cancer in San Diego County than Scripps Health. Our experience in diagnosing and treating the disease is unmatched locally and statewide.

Scripps Health teams are ready to help you fight colon cancer with treatment plans designed to eliminate tumors and prevent recurrence of the disease. We target cancers while preserving healthy tissues and maximizing your quality of life.

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World-class cancer care team

Whether you require surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other options, Scripps can provide the most advanced care. Our highly skilled physicians have dedicated their lives to helping patients take on colorectal cancer, which originates in the colon or rectum.

A multidisciplinary team of Scripps gastrointestinal specialists, oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, nurses and clinicians will work with you to provide the most appropriate and personalized treatment for your individual case.

Detection and diagnosis of colon cancer

With early detection, colon cancer can be successfully defeated. Five-year survival rates for Stage 1 colon cancer are just under 90 percent, according the National Cancer Institute.

While the rate of colon cancer screenings has increased 60 percent since 2010, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance, an estimated one in three people between ages 50 and 75 still remain unscreened. This is despite a large body of data and guidelines from experts and leading national cancer organizations.

Recommended screenings for women and men at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screenings at age 50. Those at higher risk of developing colon cancer should begin screenings before age 50. Among colon cancer risk factors are:

  • Family history of colorectal cancer (colon or rectum) or adenomatous polyps
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease

Colon cancer screening

The most common colon cancer screening tests, procedures and frequency for people at average risk are:

  • Colonoscopy, in which a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope is inserted by a physician through the anus and used to examine the rectum and the entire colon. (Recommended every 10 years.)
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), such as a stool guaiac test, which checks for hidden blood in three consecutive stool samples. (Recommended yearly.)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy, in which a flexible, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is inserted by a physician through the anus and used to examine the patient’s sigmoid colon and rectum. The sigmoid colon is the part of the large intestine closest to the rectum. (Recommended every 5 years, with FOBT every 3 years.)

When should you be screened for colon cancer?

Whatever screening test or procedure is used, the number-one recommendation is to be proactive. A stool-DNA screening test recently approved by the FDA offers another option for patients. If you’re 50 or over — or you’re under 50 and have risk factors — talk with your physician about the right screening approach.

Scripps physicians are conveniently located across San Diego County and can provide the best care for you and your family.

Diagnosing colorectal cancer

Diagnosing colon cancer can include certain types of imaging tests, a biopsy, and laboratory tests. Specific imaging tests may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan is a form of x-ray imaging test that captures images of the body from different angles. The images are combined to create detailed cross-sectional views of organs, bones and blood vessels.
  • Abdominal ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves that reflect off body structures and are then translated by a computer to create digital images. Ultrasound does not expose patients to any radiation.
  • Endorectal ultrasound relies on a transducer inserted into the rectum and can be used to determine how far a tumor has penetrated immediate tissues and if it has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) relies on a powerful magnet, radio waves and advanced digital technology to provide detailed images of organs, bone and soft tissue.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) involves a type of radioactive sugar that existing cancer cells will quickly absorb so they can be identified under a special camera. It is combined with a CT scan to give physicians the ability to view a picture of potentially cancerous areas through the PET while also seeing more detailed images from a CT scan.

Scripps provides convenient patient access for cancer imaging tests and procedures throughout San Diego County.

Colon cancer treatment options

For early stage cancers, surgery is the most common and effective treatment. The different types of colon cancer surgery include:

  • Laparoscopic-assisted colectomy is a minimally invasive surgery in which the surgeon makes several small incisions through which to use long instruments to remove part of the colon and lymph nodes. The surgery is named in part for a laparoscope with a small video camera that provides the surgeon with a view inside the abdomen.
  • Robotic-assisted colectomy is very similar to laparoscopic-assisted colectomy except a robot, which is controlled remotely by the surgeon, is used instead of laparoscopic instruments.
  • Open colectomy involves a single incision in the abdomen through which part of the colon and lymph nodes near the cancer are removed. The surgery is sometimes referred to as partial colectomy, segmental resection or hemicolectomy.
  • Polypectomy and local excision is the removal of early stage colon cancer during removal of polyps while using a colonoscope. It does not require an abdominal incision and includes removal of a small amount of surrounding tissue near the diseased area.

Radiation therapy for colorectal cancer

Radiation therapy for colon cancer is primarily used to provide palliative care and pain relief. It may also be used in combination with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy and infusion services

Chemotherapy may be used as part of a treatment plan to shrink colon cancer tumors pre-surgery. It is most often used post-surgery with an aim of attacking cancer cells that have already spread to the lymph nodes.

Because advanced colon cancer has the ability to spread beyond your colon and metastasize to other areas within the abdominal cavity, a procedure called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is an option for rare cases in which cancer involves the peritoneum. HIPEC treatment includes direct circulation of chemotherapy drugs heated to 107° F (42° C) into the patient’s abdominal cavity for 90 minutes before surgical wounds are closed and treatment is completed.

Support services

To enhance the care of people with colon cancer, Scripps Health also offers the following services:

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