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Colorectal Cancer

Mission Cancer brings together a multidisciplinary team of specialists who provide comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management of colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer.

Our team of specialists include:

  • Fellowship-trained colorectal surgeons
  • Hepatobiliary surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Diagnostic radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Genetic counselors
  • Palliative care
  • Nurse navigators

What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). While there is no single cause of colon cancer, most cases begin as polyps (precancerous polyps and adenomatous polyps), which are small noncancerous growths inside the colon or rectum. Colon polyps are a common occurrence, and 25 percent of people over the age of 50 have them. Over time, some polyps may slowly develop into cancer.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, and it is important to understand colorectal cancer prevention, how colorectal cancer is diagnosed and what the risk factors are so that you can feel informed if you or someone you know develops this disease.

You may have a higher colorectal cancer risk if you:

  • Lack physical activity, smoke, drink, or eat a lot of red or processed meats
  • Are older than 60
  • Are of African American or Eastern European descent
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer
  • Have familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome
  • Have an inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

In its early stages, colorectal cancer does not typically cause symptoms, but here are some symptoms that may occur:

  • Pain in the belly
  • Blood in the stool
  • Change in bowel habits and bowel movement
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

Colorectal Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

As symptoms often do not show up until the cancer is advanced, regular colon cancer screening is important for early detection, when the cancer is most treatable. Some experts say that adults should start regular screening at age 50, but your doctor may recommend getting tested at a younger age if you have a higher colon cancer risk.

  • Colonoscopy: For people who have an increased risk of colorectal cancer, this is the recommended screening test. During a colonoscopy, your doctor uses a lighted scope to view the inside of your colon. Polyps may be removed during this test, and tissue samples may also be taken at the same time.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Your doctor uses a lighted scope to view the lower part of the intestine. Your doctor may also remove polyps during this test.
  • Fecal occult blood test: Blood in the stool can be an indicator of colorectal cancer. Your stool may also contain blood for other reasons not connected to colorectal cancer. If you experience blood in your stool, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Digital rectal exam: This exam checks the rectum for lumps or abnormalities. About half of colon cancers can be detected in this way.
  • Biopsy: This is a procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken and examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine if it contains cancer.

If it is determined that you have colorectal cancer, your doctor may order other tests, including:

  • CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • MRI or PET scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Complete blood count
  • Blood chemistry panel

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Colorectal cancer treatment continues to evolve more rapidly than ever, emphasizing the need for a commitment to a disease-focused approach. That’s why we deliver a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, bringing together surgical, medical and radiation oncologists with specialized expertise in treating colorectal cancer, all in one location. Whether you need single, dual or a combination of all three therapies, you can be confident that you are receiving the highest level of care.

Colorectal Surgery

For patients with colorectal cancer, surgery is typically the best treatment option. That’s why at Mission Cancer, we strive to deliver the best possible surgical care, bringing together western North Carolina’s only team of fellowship-trained colorectal surgeons. Our surgeons are specifically trained in the treatment of colorectal cancer, and partner alongside gastroenterologists, medical oncologists and imaging specialists. We use the most advanced minimally invasive robotic surgical procedures, which allows our surgeons to accurately perform complex surgeries that may allow for a less-invasive surgery, less scarring and a shorter hospital stay.

Our expertise, combined with cutting-edge technology and the latest surgical procedures, ensures you have access to world class care for colorectal cancer, right in your community.

Learn more about colorectal surgery.

Find a colorectal surgeon.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses X-rays to destroy cancerous cells and shrink tumors. While more commonly used to treat rectal cancer than colon cancer, radiation is typically combined with surgery. At Mission, our radiation therapy specialists use the latest technologies and treatments, and coordinate care with your surgeon, medical oncologist and primary care physician to ensure precise and accurate treatment.

Learn more about radiation therapy


Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells, and may be used in combination with radiation therapy and surgery. At Mission, our medical oncologists are experts in the tumor-specific disease processes, treatments and research options.

Learn more about medical oncology.

Find a medical oncologist.

Support and Survivorship

We understand a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. That’s why we provide the utmost cancer care, including access to a dedicated nurse navigator, who guides you through each step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship. Our GI nurse navigator has specialized training in colorectal cancer, and will initiate and facilitate timely communication with each member of your care team, provide education, resources, emotional support and access to appropriate support groups and community resources.

Click here to browse our support services.


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