Search Menu
Search entire library by keyword
Choose by letter to browse topics
A B C D E F G H I J K LM N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9
(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)

Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer: What You Need to Know

  • If detected early, cancer of the colon and rectum is one of the most curable types of gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Adults should begin regular screening at age 50. You may start screening earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if you are age 45 (or older) and of African-American or Eastern European Jewish descent.
  • Tests for colon and rectal cancer screening and diagnosis include the following: fecal occult blood test, barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy and stool DNA test.
  • If a polyp is found, your doctor will monitor you closely. Some polyps could become cancerous if left untreated.
  • Some forms of colorectal cancer are hereditary.

Colon Cancer Overview

Diagram of the digestive system, showing the location of the colon and rectum.

The colon and rectum make up the large intestine of the digestive system. The colon is the upper five feet of the large intestine. The final six inches of the digestive tract is called the rectum.

Colon and rectal cancers occur when the cells that line the colon or rectum become abnormal and grow out of control. This cell growth may interfere with the function of these organs and surrounding tissue and organs.

Excluding skin cancers, colon and rectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. Several diagnostic and screening tests allow for early detection and treatment. If detected early, colon and rectal cancers are highly treatable and often curable.

Patients with colon and rectal cancers benefit from working with physicians who specialize in treating colon and rectal cancers as part of a team of multidisciplinary professionals. This team works together to review and manage patient care, including tumor analysis and disease staging.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

There are several risk factors for developing colon cancer and rectal cancer. While you can’t change your genetics, you may be able to lower your cancer risk by making some vital lifestyle changes.

Learn more about risk factors for colon and rectal cancers.

Colon Cancer Prevention

There’s no secret to colon and rectal cancer prevention. However, your body weight, food choices and exercise habits impact your risk of developing colon cancer and rectal cancer.

Learn more about colon and rectal cancer prevention.

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Colon and rectal cancers do not usually produce symptoms in the early stages of disease. As the tumor grows, symptoms will develop depending on the location of the primary tumor within the intestine.

Learn more about colon and rectal cancer symptoms.

Colon Cancer Diagnosis

Screening is vital for the early detection and successful treatment of colon and rectal cancers. Several screening and diagnostic tests are available. See your doctor for a custom screening schedule.

Learn more about colon and rectal cancer diagnosis.

Colon Cancer Types

There are several types of cancer that affect the colon and rectum. Some forms of colon cancer and rectal cancer tend to run in families while others do not.

Learn more about colon and rectal cancer types.

Colon Cancer Treatment

Colon and rectal cancer treatment depends on the stage of disease. Typical treatment protocols include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Follow-up care is needed following treatment.

Learn more about treating colon cancer and rectal cancer.

Colon Cancer Survivorship

Colon and rectal cancers change your life in a number of ways. Following colon or rectal cancer treatment, you must cope with ongoing screening, side effects, emotional concerns and lifestyle changes.

Learn more about colon and rectal cancer survivorship.

Find a physician at another Johns Hopkins Member Hospital:
Connect with a Treatment Center:
Find Additional Treatment Centers at:
woman holding pill case

Johns Hopkins Home Care

We provide high quality, individualized care for patients of all ages where you feel most comfortable – your home or community. Our services and equipment are designed to help you regain and retain a level of independence.

Learn More