What is Colon Cancer?

Colon and rectal cancer, collectively referred to as colorectal cancer, is responsible for 55,000 cancer deaths in the US each year. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in men as well as women, and second overall in men and women combined.

Causes of Colon Cancer

Colorectal cancer almost always arises from a gradual, abnormal cell growth in the lining of the colon known as a polyp. Polyps may exist for 10-15 years before converting to cancer. This slow growth is a great advantage because polyps can be spotted well in advance when they are relatively easy to eliminate. A routine procedure called colonoscopy enables your physician to identify and remove polyps.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

The causes leading to colon polyp and cancer formation are not well understood, but a number of risk factors have been identified. These include:

  • age greater than 50
  • personal history of colon polyps
  • personal history of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • family history of colon polyps
  • family history of colon cancer
  • inherited colon cancer syndromes
  • African American or Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
  • diets high in red and processed meats
  • cooking meats at very high temperatures
  • diets low in vegetables and fruit (low fiber diet)
  • lack of physical activity
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • Heavy alcohol intake
  • Type-2 diabetes

Colon Cancer Diagnosis

Colorectal cancer is most often diagnosed by colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard and enables doctors to identify colon polyps before they become cancerous.

Colon Cancer Treatment

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are used either alone or in combination to treat colorectal cancer. Surgery may be performed laparoscopically or with open surgery. Chemotherapy drug treatment is recommended for more advanced stages of colorectal cancer. Radiation therapy is usually recommended to be part of the treatment approach for rectal cancer.

Learn More About Colon Cancer »

The board-certified physicians at San Francisco Gastroenterology are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the digestive tract, including colon cancer. Our doctors serve from Marin County, Oakland, Berkeley, Palo Alto and the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Our goal is simply to provide the highest quality medical care and patient service possible.

Request an Appointment