Colon and Rectal Cancer

What is Colon Cancer?

colon cancer treatmentsColorectal cancer is known as the “silent killer” because most patients do not experience any symptoms. If experiencing abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, anemia, and/or unintended weight-loss, talk to a physician about referral for a diagnostic colonoscopy to rule out cancer. Tumors may be benign or malignant, and can grow into other tissues of the body.

Facts about Colon Cancer

  • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death
  • Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in women and men
  • It is estimated that 94,000 people are diagnosed each year with colon cancer
  • Approximately 37,000 are diagnosed annually with cancer of the rectum
  • About 75% of all new cases of colon cancer occur in people with no known risk factors for this disease
  • Screening for colorectal cancer and polyps has decreased the incidence of this disease by nearly 2% per year during the past decade

Polyps are non-cancerous growths that can occur anywhere in the colon or rectum. Though they are not cancer, polyps should be removed because they can become cancerous. Dr. Kaufman recommends individuals who have had a colon or rectal polyp to come in for regular examinations since they are more likely to develop in the future.

What is Rectal Cancer?

Rectal cancer occurs in the lower 5-6 inches of the large intestine. In the past, many patients with rectal cancer were treated with removal of the rectum and anus, followed by the formation of a permanent colostomy. However, Dr. Kaufman at Huntington Colorectal utilizes advanced techniques in anal sphincter preservation with rectal reconstruction, which help minimize the need for a colostomy. In addition, great care is taken to identify and preserve the nerves that control bladder and bowel function to maximize quality of life after surgery.

When cancer occurs in the very low portion of the rectum it may require removal of the anus. In order to allow waste to exit the body, an opening called a stoma is created in the abdomen. A special bag covers the stoma so that waste can be collected. If a colostomy is needed, patients are assisted by specialized Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses, who teach them how to care for their colostomy.

What is Anal Cancer?

Anal cancer is relatively uncommon, accounting for only 1.5% of all gastrointestinal cancers in the United States. Treatment typically involves chemo and radiation therapy, and a close follow-up as surgery is not usually required for this type of cancer.

How do we treat and screen rectal cancer?

What is colorectal cancer screening?

Screening for colorectal cancer has proven to decrease mortality in randomized clinical trials. Unfortunately, most individuals are not screened due to fear or lack of adequate education regarding the benefits. Recommendations for screening begin at age 50 for the average risk population, and at 40 years of age (or younger) for higher risk groups.

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) – This test is noninvasive and identifies blood in stool that may be a sign of underlying cancer or advanced polyps. Two samples from each of three consecutive stools will be examined without rehydration. Patients with a positive test on any specimen should be followed up with colonoscopy.
  • Colonoscopy – This short preventative procedure allows a gastroenterologist to look inside the large intestine using a colonoscope to identify early warning signs of colon or rectal cancer. If anything abnormal is seen in the colon such as a polyp or inflamed tissue, the physician can remove all or part of it using tiny instruments passed through the scope. That tissue (biopsy) is then sent to a lab for testing. A colonoscopy may take 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – A thin lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is used to look inside the rectum and lower colon for polyps, tumors, or other abnormalities. Only the lower ¼ to ⅓ of the colon is visualized.
  • Double Contrast Barium Enema – This test is used to obtain an X-ray of the colon and rectum. It consists of barium–a white, chalky substance–given to patients prior to the X-ray. The barium outlines the colon and rectum on the X-rays to help Dr. Kaufman see tumors or other abnormal tissue. Dr. Kaufman may also expand the colon by gently pumping air during the test to look for small tumors.

What is a Virtual Colonoscopy?

Advances in computer processing speed and imaging software have allowed for the development of “virtual colonoscopy” (CT colonography). This test requires an intestinal cleansing but is performed rapidly, without sedation, and without the invasiveness of flexible video colonoscopy. Other intra-abdominal abnormalities may be diagnosed with this screening device.


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Treated Conditions

Hemorrhoid Removal
Pelvic Floor Disorders
Pelvic Floor
Fecal Incontinence
Anorectal Manometry
Anal Ultrasound
Obstructed Defecation
Rectal Prolapse

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Howard Kaufman, MD

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Address: 10 Congress Street, Suite 300 Pasadena, CA 91105

Phone: (626) 397-5896
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