Abdominal Conditions

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the colon. The colon and the rectum are part of the large intestine, which is part of the digestive system. In the United States, colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer. Caught early, it is often curable. It is recommended that everyone who is 50 or older should be screened for colorectal cancer.


A patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Rectal bleeding-bright red or dark blood in the stool
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort such as frequent gas pains, cramps, bloating, or feeling of fullness
  • Narrower stools than usual
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or the feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Constant tiredness
  • Vomiting


In addition to a physical exam, physicians use these tests to diagnose cancer of the colon:

  • Fecal occult blood test: is a test of small stool samples to check for blood that can only be seen with a microscope.
  • Digital rectal exam: An exam in which the doctor feels for abnormal areas by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: A procedure to examine the rectum and lower colon (called the sigmoid colon) for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer using a lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope.
  • Colonoscopy: A procedure to examine the rectum and entire colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer using a lighted instrument called a colonoscope. In addition to a light and a lens for viewing, a colonoscope may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples to check under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: A procedure that is done with an external scanning machine instead of a device inserted into the colon. It provides a series of detailed pictures of the colon that may show polyps and anything else that seems unusual on the inside surface of the colon.
  • Barium enema: A series of x-rays of the lower gastrointestinal tract. A liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound) is put into the rectum. The barium coats the lower gastrointestinal tract and x-rays are taken. This procedure is also called a lower GI series.


Surgery to remove the cancer is the most common treatment for colon cancer. Estrella Surgical Group performs colon surgery as either open (traditional) surgery or laparoscopic surgery.

Open surgery involves making an incision in your abdomen to access your colon. Laparoscopic colectomy is done through several small incisions in your abdomen. Cancer surgery options include:

Local excision: When cancer is found at a very early stage, the surgeon may remove it through a tube inserted through the rectum into the colon.

Resection: If the cancer is larger, the surgeon will remove the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it. The surgeon will then sew together the ends of the healthy colon that are left. After recovering from surgery, most people who have had a colon resection find that bowel movements continue normally. The doctor will also usually remove lymph nodes near the colon and examine them under a microscope to see whether they contain cancer.

Resection and colostomy: If, after the resection is completed, not enough healthy colon remains for the two ends of the colon to be sewn back together, the surgeon makes an opening in the abdomen for waste to pass through. This procedure is called a colostomy. A bag is placed around the opening to collect the waste.