What Is Colon Cancer?

The colon is the large intestine in the lower portion of the digestive tract. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow together and form masses called tumors. In most cases, colon cancer develops as noncancerous clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps that can become cancerous over time. 

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of colon cancer. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

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Know Your Risk

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Colon Cancer

The risk of colorectal cancer increases dramatically with age. Take our colorectal cancer risk assessment to estimate your personal risk of developing colon and rectal cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of colon cancer may go unnoticed for some time, but they can include:

  • A change in bowel habits that lasts a month or more, including constipation, diarrhea or narrow stools
  • A feeling the bowel does not empty completely
  • Constant abdominal pain
  • Blood in stools
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss


To diagnose colon cancer, a physician will ask about symptoms and medical and family history. We also use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:

Blood tests: There is no one blood test for colon cancer, but blood tests that monitor levels of kidney and liver health over time will provide information about overall health. Blood tests can also show if a certain substance produced by some colon cancers is present.

Colonoscopy: During this procedure, a long, flexible, lighted tube with a video camera attached is inserted through the rectum to view the colon from a screen. A small amount of tissue may be removed to examine under a microscope to see if cancer is present.

Double-contrast barium enema: For the procedure, an enema that contains barium, a dye for contrast, is given and air is put into the rectum before X-rays are taken of the colon. The barium allows physicians to more easily see any polyps in the colon.


In most cases, the cause of colon cancer is unknown. But many lifestyle factors can lead to the development of colon cancer, including: 

  • Regular, heavy use of alcohol 
  • Having diabetes or being insulin-resistant 
  • Eating high-fat, low-fiber foods and also eating a lot of red meat 
  • Having a body mass index of 30 or higher 
  • A lack of exercise 
  • Tobacco use 

Risk Factors

Risk factors that can contribute to colon cancer include:

Age: People older than age 45 are at greater risk for developing colon cancer.

Genetics: If family members have genetic syndromes such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis, or have a family history of colon cancer, the risk increases for developing colon cancer.

History of colorectal cancer or polyps: Previously having either condition raises the risk of getting colon cancer.

Intestinal conditions: Diseases of the colon that are inflammatory and chronic, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

Race and ethnicity: African-Americans and Ashkenazi Jews are at greater risk for developing colon cancer.

Radiation exposure: Previous radiation treatment of the abdomen can lead to colon cancer.


While some risk factors like age and heredity cannot be controlled, there are ways you can help prevent colon cancer:

Don’t smoke: Lower the risk of getting colon cancer by not smoking.

Get screenings: People 45 and over and/or who have a family history that raises risk factors for colon cancer need routine screenings to detect colon cancer early. Screenings can include a colonoscopy and fecal occult blood test.

Limit alcohol: Reduce the risk of getting colon cancer by having only one alcoholic drink a day.

Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight: Aim for a body mass index no higher than 25 to avoid the development of colon cancer. 

Practice good health: Eat a healthy low-fat diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, and exercise daily.


The prognosis for colon cancer depends upon how early the cancer is diagnosed and the size of the tumor. The highest survival rate for colon cancer occurs in people diagnosed and treated early. Screenings can detect colon cancer in the early stages.

Treatment and Recovery

Colon cancer treatment depends upon how far the condition has progressed. It may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of treatments. 


The type of surgery for colon cancer can depend on the location and stage of the tumor. Options include:

  • Polypectomy: During this procedure, a long tube with a video camera attached is inserted through the anus to view the colon. A tiny tool is used to remove cancerous polyps.
  • Colectomy: During this procedure, the tumors and some surrounding healthy tissue are removed. Some lymph nodes are also removed for examination under a microscope to see if they are cancerous. The surgeon then reconnects parts of the colon. If it is not possible to reconnect the colon, an opening will be made to allow for the elimination of waste into a colostomy bag.
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection: During this procedure on a small tumor located on the surface of the colon, saltwater is injected through the wall of the colon to create a bubble underneath the tumor to remove it.


Chemotherapy uses special drugs designed to kill cancer cells. The treatments can be given as a pill or injected into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy can be administered before surgery to make the tumor smaller or after surgery to keep cancer from reoccurring. 

Radiation therapy

High-energy radiation is directed specifically to the colon to kill cancer cells. Treatments can be given before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer returning. Most often radiation treatments are given five days a week for several weeks. 

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy can include a combination of oral and intravenous (injected into the vein) drugs or other substances, to attack the way colon cancer cells develop, multiply and interact with other cells. 


Colon cancer can return after treatment or spread to other parts of the body. Complications of colon cancer and colon cancer treatment can include:

  • Intestinal obstruction 
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea 
Biruk Almaz MD
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As a colorectal surgeon one of the some of the common procedures that I perform are screening and, diagnostic colonoscopy, as well as, in clinic procedures for hemorrhoids, fistula, as well as polynomial diseases. Some of the complex procedures that perform are complex laparoscopic as well as robotic minimally invasive procedures for both benign and malignant lesions of the colon and rectum. Coming to Baptist Floyd as a colorectal surgeon to help the community, especially in the realm of advanced minimally invasive, robotically, laparoscopically, has helped decrease patients recovery time, as well as post operative pain, especially for patients with lower rectal cancers and advanced cancer can be treated with minimally invasive surgery approaches as well as multidisciplinary approaches for patients with advanced colon and rectal cancer.

The robotic platform has enabled us to do minimally invasive and complex pathologies and issues in the colon and rectum, especially with cancer and the rectum. This has enabled us to work in very narrow pelvises to be able to limit the conversion rate from minimum invasive to more open surgery. Because we have the robotic platform that we're enabling care of patience here at Baptist without traveling across the bridge or all the way to Indianapolis.

Colostomy Care and Supplies

A colostomy is a surgical procedure that brings one end of the large intestine out through the abdominal wall. This creates an opening called a stoma through which stool can exit the body. Colostomies are often performed as a treatment for colon cancer or other conditions that affect the lower digestive tract.

Colostomy Care

  • Keep the skin around the stoma clean and dry: Gently clean the skin around the stoma with warm water and mild soap. Pat the area dry with a soft cloth.
  • Properly empty and change the ostomy bag: Empty the ostomy bag when it is about one-third to one-half full to prevent leaks. Change the bag as needed, ensuring a proper seal to prevent leaks and skin irritation.
  • Monitor stoma and skin health: Regularly check the stoma and the skin around it for signs of irritation, redness, or infection. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any changes.
  • Follow dietary recommendations: Your healthcare provider may recommend certain dietary changes.

Colostomy Supplies

  • Ostomy bags: These collect stool and are available in various sizes and types, including one-piece and two-piece systems.
  • Skin barrier products: These protect the skin around the stoma from irritation and help create a seal between the skin and the ostomy bag.
  • Adhesive removers and skin cleansers: These products help with the removal of the ostomy appliance and adhesive residue, as well as keeping the skin clean and healthy.
  • Stoma caps and covers: These provide a low-profile option for covering the stoma and collecting stool for short periods, allowing for increased discretion and comfort.

Wound Care

Wound care is an essential aspect of managing surgical incisions, ostomy sites, and other areas of compromised skin integrity. Proper wound care helps prevent infection, promotes healing, and ensures patient comfort.

Wound Care Guidelines

  • Keep the wound clean: Gently clean the wound with mild soap and water, or as directed by your healthcare provider. Pat the area dry with a clean, soft cloth.
  • Change dressings as directed: Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for changing wound dressings. This may involve cleaning the wound, applying medication, and reapplying a new dressing.
  • Monitor for signs of infection: Watch for signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, warmth, or drainage from the wound. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of these signs.
  • Protect the wound: Keep the wound protected from further injury or irritation. This may involve using bandages, dressings, or other protective coverings.
  • Follow dietary and lifestyle recommendations: Proper nutrition and lifestyle habits can support wound healing. Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for diet, activity, and wound care.