Colorectal Cancer

doctor placing hand on shoulder of male patient

The colon is an important part of your digestive system which takes in water and minerals from digested food and converts undigested food to stool. Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum, occurs when a growth in the lining of the colon or rectum becomes cancerous. It's the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States.

Most colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps, which develop over a number of years. If you are 45 or older, you should have a colonoscopy every 10 years to help detect any abnormalities. With proper screening, physicians can identify cancer in an earlier stage when it is easier to treat.

Signs and Symptoms

In its early stages, colorectal cancer may not show any symptoms, which is why regular screening at the age of 45 is important. In time, symptoms may appear as:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in your stool
  • Change in bowel movements, especially shape
  • Cramping in lower abdomen
  • Gas pains
  • Pain in having bowel movement
  • Weight loss or decreased appetite

What are the Causes?

The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, but there are factors that can put you at a higher risk. These include:

  • Lifestyle: A diet full of red meat, fatty, and processed foods can increase your risk, as well as smoking, physical inactivity, and type II diabetes.
  • Genetics: If someone in your family was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you are at a higher risk and may be screened earlier than the recommended age. Or if you have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS) you should talk to your doctor about recommended screening age.
  • Race: African Americans have the highest risk of any group of Americans, and you may be screened sooner.


We offer various technologies to provide you with the most advanced methods of diagnosing colorectal cancer including:

Colonoscopy - A long flexible tube with a small camera is used to examine the walls of the colon and rectum.

Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) - An at-home test that finds blood in the stool. 

Stool DNA Test - A collected sample of stool is reviewed at the lab to check for any abnormal DNA that may indicate cancer or precancerous polyps.

Fecal Occult Blood Test - A stool sample is checked for blood which could be a sign of cancer or a precancerous polyp.

Sigmoidoscopy - A flexible light tube is inserted into the rectum to check for polyps and cancer in the lower colon.


If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your expert care team will work with you to develop a treatment plan specific to your medical needs. We offer a wide range of colorectal cancer therapies including medical oncologyradiation therapy and surgical options specific to colorectal cancer.

Surgery for Colorectal Cancers

  • Laproscopic colon resections for right and left colonic lesions
  • Open colon resections for right and left colonic lesions
  • Endorectal ultrasound for pre-operative staging of rectal cancer
  • Low anterior resections and abdominal perineal resections for rectal cancer
  • Sphincter saving low anastmosis for very low lying rectal cancers
  • Edoluminal stenting
  • Liver resections for isolated colorectal liver metastasis
  • Debulking for primary or recurrent peritoneal circumstances
  • Pelvic exenteration for locally advanced rectal cancers

Upcoming Events

  • Ongoing
    Healthy Steps combines gentle movements, dance, and music to improve overall wellness, as well as emotional well-being and self-image.
  • Ongoing
    Strength ABC is a gradual weight training program designed for all breast cancer survivors.
  • May
    1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
    Our Oncology Department holds a Cancer Support Group on a regular basis for those undergoing cancer treatment, as well as survivors.
  • Aug
    11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    A support group for people with lymphedema, and their family members and caregivers.

Learn More

For more information about Cancer Care Program at Sturdy Memorial Hospital, call our oncology department at 508-236-7010 or 508-236-7012.

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