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Colon Cancer

Colon cancers can be complex. Count on the colorectal cancer experts at the University of Michigan Health Rogel Cancer Center for precise diagnosis and personalized treatment. We tailor treatment to your health needs so you can get the best possible health outcomes.

Colon Cancer Care: Why Choose Rogel Cancer Center?

When you need colon cancer care, you’re in the right place at Rogel Cancer Center. Our comprehensive multidisciplinary colorectal cancer clinic provides access to the full spectrum of expert care. Program highlights include:

  • Genetic expertise: Our cancer geneticists are a critical part of our gastrointestinal (GI) cancer team, specializing in diagnosing and treating genetic cancer syndromes. We help identify cancers that might run in your family. Meet our team.
  • Surgical care for complex cancers: Our team has expertise in the surgical treatment of the most complex colon cancers. We’re highly skilled in treating cancer that has spread (metastatic colon cancer) to the liver and other organs.
  • Advanced care for metastatic cancer: We offer hepatic artery infusion pump (HAIP) therapy to treat colon cancers that have spread to the liver. This therapy helps improve overall survival for people with metastatic disease.
  • New treatment options: Our GI cancer clinical trials offer new colon cancer therapies, such as sotorasib, a type of medication that destroys cancer cells but spares healthy tissue (targeted therapy). We never stop searching for new ways to fight colon cancer.

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About Colon Cancer

Colon cancers form when cells grow in abnormal ways inside the colon (the main part of the large intestine, or bowel). Bowel cancers often begin with small growths (polyps).

Some people don’t have any symptoms of colon cancer. Others have:

  • Blood in their stool
  • Bowel changes (such as constipation, diarrhea or a feeling of fullness)
  • Fatigue
  • Narrow stools
  • Pain in the abdomen

Rogel Cancer Center experts diagnose colon cancer with:

Endoscopic procedures

Doctors may find colon polyps during a test called screening colonoscopy. Specialists insert a thin lighted tube (colonoscope) into the rectum and colon to view tissue changes and look for growths. During colonoscopy, experts may remove polyps to examine under a microscope to see if cancer is present.

We may also recommend sigmoidoscopy. Experts insert a thin lighted instrument (sigmoidoscope) into the rectum to view the lower (sigmoid) colon. We search for polyps and changes to the colon and may remove tissue samples (biopsy) to examine further.

Imaging tests

Our experts may also do imaging tests to see if cancer has spread (metastasized) and determine its stage (severity). Staging gives specialists the information they need to design your customized treatment plan. Imaging tests include:

  • Angiography: We inject dye into an artery before taking X-rays of the blood vessels. These images show any colon cancer that has spread to the liver.
  • Barium enema (lower GI series): We insert barium (a white liquid) into your rectum to help make the colon more visible during X-rays. We then take images to see any growths or changes in the colon. Rarely, specialists use barium enema to diagnose colon cancer.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: Experts take a series of X-rays to determine the cancer’s exact location. We may use intravenous (through the vein) dye to highlight the blood vessels and oral dye (by mouth) to highlight the gastrointestinal system.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Experts use radio waves and powerful magnets to create images of your abdomen and pelvis. We may use MRI along with CT scan to create abdominal images. In the pelvis, our experts obtain specialized MRI images that show the size and location of rectal and anal cancers. We use these detailed views to inform treatment decisions.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: You take a small amount of radioactive material (radiotracer) by mouth or by injection. Our specialists then take a CT scan or MRI of your body. The radiotracer makes cancer cells visible so experts can find cancer that has spread or determine if treatment is working.
  • Ultrasound: We use a probe (transducer) that uses sound waves to create pictures of internal organs. This test helps us determine if cancer has spread. We may do an ultrasound of your abdomen or insert a special probe into the rectum (endorectal ultrasound) to look for cancer.

Colon Cancer Treatment at Rogel Cancer Center

Treating colon cancer effectively requires an individualized approach. Our colorectal cancer experts give you access to the most advanced colon cancer treatment options. We offer:

Radiation oncology for colon cancer

Our radiation oncologists treat colon cancer with sophisticated radiation techniques. We may use radiation alone or in combination with chemotherapy or other systemic therapies. Our experts may use:

  • External beam radiation: We use an X-ray machine that targets tumors with radiation to help shrink cancer and relieve symptoms.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy: We use this specialized radiation technique to target and treat cancer that has spread to other organs.

Surgery for colon cancer

We use surgery to treat many colon cancer types. Our expert surgeons are highly experienced in the surgical treatment of complex cancers. We offer:

  • Local excision: Surgery to remove small areas of cancerous tissue that hasn’t begun to spread
  • Partial colectomy: Surgery to remove part of the colon
  • Total colectomy: Surgery to remove the entire colon

Our colorectal cancer team includes experts in reconstructive surgery. After partial or total colectomy, our specialists provide surgical solutions that help preserve bowel function.

Whenever possible, we use minimally invasive surgical techniques such as:

  • Laparoscopic surgery: Experts make small incisions in the abdomen and insert narrow instruments to remove tumors and repair damaged tissue. Small incisions help make recovery easier so you can heal sooner.
  • Robotic surgery: Surgeons use computer-assisted robotic equipment to perform surgical procedures. Robotic surgery allows surgeons to operate with enhanced precision that helps improve recovery times.

As colon cancer advances, it sometimes spreads to other organs. Our multidisciplinary GI cancer team includes surgeons with expertise in removing liver tumors caused by colon cancer. When colon cancer spreads to other organs, we may use surgery, known as multivisceral resection, to remove part of the:

  • Bladder
  • Prostate
  • Spine
  • Vagina

Systemic therapy for colon cancer

Our medical oncologists use medications to treat cancers of the colon and colon cancer that has spread to other areas. We use:

  • Chemotherapy: Powerful drugs that move through your bloodstream to kill cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy: Drugs that help your immune system identify and fight cancer cells
  • Targeted therapy: Specialized medications that target specific cancer cells in your body while sparing healthy cells

The expert oncology nurses at Rogel Cancer Center specialize in delivering systemic therapy infusions. Our team is there with you to make sure you’re comfortable and to help manage any treatment side effects.

Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) for colon cancer

We use heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) to destroy colon cancer cells that have spread to the abdominal lining (peritoneum). During surgery, specialists flush the abdomen with heated chemotherapy drugs.

Hepatic artery infusion pump (HAIP) therapy for metastatic colon cancer

Our experts use hepatic artery infusion pump (HAIP) therapy to treat colon cancer that has spread to the liver. We implant a small device just under the abdominal skin and thread a thin flexible tube (catheter) to the hepatic artery. The pump delivers a high dose of floxuridine, a chemotherapy drug, directly to the liver.

You receive HAIP for two weeks and then take two weeks off. You may have HAIP alone or in addition to systemic chemotherapy. HAIP helps improve survival rates in people with metastatic colon cancer of the liver.

Clinical trials at Rogel Cancer Center

When colon cancer doesn’t respond to standard therapies, you have access to the most advanced emerging treatments. Talk with your care team to see if you’re eligible to participate in a clinical trial. Learn more about GI cancer clinical trials we offer for colon cancer at Rogel Cancer Center.

Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Care

The specialists at Rogel Cancer Center work together to treat all types of colorectal cancer in our multidisciplinary clinics. Our specialist team offers access to expert diagnoses and the most advanced treatments for colorectal cancers. The multidisciplinary approach at Rogel Cancer Center ensures you benefit from our team’s years of training, skill and experience.

Find GI Cancer Support Services

We provide the information and resources you need when you or a family member is treated for colon cancer. Our patient navigators make sure your questions are answered at every step. Learn more about GI cancer support services at Rogel Cancer Center.

Request an Appointment

Learn more about how we diagnose and treat colon cancer at Rogel Cancer Center. Call 734-647-8902 to make an appointment.