Gastroenterology

Colorectal Cancer

Colon, or colorectal cancer is the growth of cancerous cells that begins in the large intestine (colon) or rectum. Early diagnosis of this potentially deadly cancer can often lead to a complete cure.

Our gastroenterologists collaborate with the Abramson Cancer Center using the most advanced technology to evaluate and treat colorectal and other types of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. Our physicians have pioneered treatments for colon cancer with combined therapies, including endoscopic procedures, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer screening can detect cancer before symptoms appear. If cancer screening indicates any areas of concern, diagnosis and treatment can commence promptly to prevent the cancer from spreading.

One or more of the following tests for colorectal cancer screening may be recommended:

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT) - checks for blood in three consecutive stool samples.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy uses a flexible, lighted tube (sigmoidoscope) to look at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon.
  • Colonoscopy uses a flexible, lighted tube (colonoscope) to look at the interior walls of the rectum and the entire colon.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Recommendations

Regular screening for gastrointestinal cancers should begin at age 50. People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age, and may need to be tested more frequently. Although it is not generally recommended to continue testing after the age of 75, the decision to stop should be made on an individual basis.

Who is at Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer?

Researchers have found several risk factors that may increase a person's chance of developing colorectal cancer. Some of the risks include:

  • Age – more than 90 percent of cases occur in those 50 and older
  • Existing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Family history
  • Genetic syndromes
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet
  • Being overweight
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use

Penn has a genetics clinic for the testing and counseling of people at high risk of developing colorectal and other gastrointestinal cancers. Genetics counselors in the program work with patients to reduce their risk of developing future cancers.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Doctors at Penn have developed surgical therapies for colorectal cancer that provide the best chance for cure while preserving quality of life. Penn has pioneered nutritional support for gastrointestinal cancer patients, a crucial part of care and recovery.

Our GI cancer program offers:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Second opinions regarding treatment options.
  • Multidisciplinary approach involving specialists from gastroenterology, gastrointestinal surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology.
  • The resources of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, one of less than 30 cancer centers in the country approved and designated by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive cancer center.
  • Access to new therapies through a wide range of clinical trials
  • Coordination with programs in chemo prevention, molecular diagnosis, experimental therapeutics and genetic counseling.
  • Access to a wide range of Penn support services for patients and families.

The Penn Pancreatic and Biliary Center is the highest volume pancreatic cancer center in the Philadelphia region and among the top ten in the country.

A Collaborative Approach

Penn's gastrointestinal cancer specialists include:

Gastroenterology

Oncology

Surgery

Locations

This program is available at the following locations:

Preparing for Appointments and Procedures

Are you scheduled for a first-time consultation with a gastroenterologist at Penn? Save time at the doctor’s office by completing your registration and medical history forms.