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About Colon Cancer

Not all colon cancers act (or respond to treatment) similarly. At the Abramson Cancer Center, our nationally known gastrointestinal (GI) cancer specialists expertly treat all types of colon cancer, including rare and advanced cases.

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Everyone experiences colon cancer symptoms differently. Symptoms often depend on where in the intestine a tumor grows as well as its size. You may have no symptoms at all. In fact, it’s common to experience no signs of early colon cancer.

Some people with colon cancer experience:

  • Sudden change in the look of your stool (harder or looser stools than usual)
  • Dark, black or bloody stools
  • Stool that seems to narrow in shape
  • Feeling that your bowel never quite empties fully
  • Abdominal pain or bloating that doesn’t seem to go away
  • Unexplained weight loss

Colon Cancer Screening

Most colon cancers start as colon polyps, noncancerous masses that grow on the inner walls of the colon. Polyps tend to grow slowly. A small percentage of these growths turn into cancer. It usually takes a long time (around 10 years) for a polyp to turn into cancer.

Colon cancer screening can detect colon cancer and polyps early, which gives you the best chance at successful treatment. Screening tests include:

  • Colonoscopy: This scoped exam allows your doctor to see inside the large intestine.
  • Stool-based tests: A lab tests a stool sample for signs of blood or other abnormalities.

Medical experts recommend people at average risk of colon cancer start getting screened at 45. If colon cancer runs in your family, your doctor may recommend screening earlier or more often. Learn more about colon cancer risks and prevention, or ask your health care team about your cancer risk.

Types of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer can arise from multiple types of cells inside the colon (most of the large intestine). Our experts treat routine and rare colon cancer types, including:

  • Adenocarcinomas arise from cells that line the inside walls of the colon. Adenocarcinoma makes up the vast majority of colorectal cancers.
  • Carcinoid tumors are masses that develop in hormone-producing cells of the intestine.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are a rare type of sarcoma (soft tissue tumor) that can occur in connective tissue anywhere along the digestive tract. GIST tumors can develop inside the colon. Our specialists have extensive experience treating this rare cancer.
  • Lymphomas usually start growing in the body’s lymph nodes (glands). Less commonly, lymphoma begins growing in the colon.
  • Metastatic colon cancer happens when colon cancer spreads to other organs, such as the liver. Metastatic colon cancer is also called stage 4 colon cancer.

Why Choose the Abramson Cancer Center for Colon Cancer Care?

Penn Medicine’s colon cancer program provides diagnostic expertise and the latest treatments with compassion. We seek to deliver high-quality, personalized care across our extensive network of locations.

We are committed to providing:

  • Comprehensive screening services near you: Penn’s extensive network makes it easier for you to fit regular colon cancer screenings into your life. Find a location that works best for you.
  • Personalized cancer risk evaluation: Some colon cancers have a genetic link and can be passed down in families. At Penn’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Genetics Program, we’re experts at helping people understand how genes may affect overall cancer risk.
  • Leading treatment options: If you have colon cancer, you’re in excellent hands. Our fellowship-trained colorectal surgeons safely perform sophisticated cancer removal surgeries. We offer a full spectrum of the latest colon cancer treatments, including evolving therapies only available through clinical trials.
  • Precision medicine: Specialized genomic tests help us pinpoint a diagnosis and tailor treatment to you.
  • Widespread support: Our indispensable GI oncology nurse and patient navigators provide education, encouragement and support throughout your care. Learn more about navigating GI cancer.

Request an Appointment

Our oncology nurse navigator team can guide you to the right colon cancer expert for your needs. Call 215-615-0534 to speak with a knowledgeable colon cancer nurse navigator or request an appointment online.