Colorectal cancer requires expert care that’s tailored to your unique needs. At Levine Cancer Institute, our experienced gastrointestinal cancer specialists offer customized treatment plans to give you the best chance of a healthy recovery.

From cutting-edge surgeries to personalized support, you get complete care for all aspects of your well-being. And with more than 25 locations across the Carolinas, we bring the treatment you need closer to home.

Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth, called a polyp, in the colon or the rectum. Depending on where the cancer starts, it can be referred to separately as colon cancer or rectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer screenings can find cancer at early stages, when it’s easiest to treat. Colonoscopies can even prevent cancer by finding and removing precancerous polyps. Learn more about colonoscopy screenings at Atrium Health.

Your care team may use one or more tests to screen for or diagnose colorectal cancer, including:

  • Colonoscopy: During this procedure, the doctor uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end to examine the inside of the large intestine (colon and rectum). The doctor may perform a polyp biopsy (removing and testing a sample of tissue) to determine if it’s cancerous.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This procedure is similar to a colonoscopy, but only the lower part of the colon is examined.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: A CT scanner is used to take x-rays of the colon and rectum.
  • Double-contrast barium enema (DCBE): The doctor inserts barium (a white liquid) and air into the rectum, then takes a series of x-rays of the colon.
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT): These simple, at-home tests check for hidden blood in your stool.
  • Digital rectal exam: A doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to check for any abnormal growths.

Genetic Counseling for Colorectal Cancer

While the exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, certain factors are linked to increased risk. A small portion of colorectal cancer is hereditary, meaning the cancer is caused by gene changes that run in your family.

Genetic counseling can help you find out if your genes raise your risk of colorectal cancer and make informed decisions to protect your health. If you’re diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your genetic testing results may change how your doctor treats it.

Learn more about Levine Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genetics program.

Your Care Team

When you’re treated at Levine Cancer Institute, you have access to a full care team dedicated to helping you through every step of your cancer journey. These highly experienced specialists meet regularly to review your case and coordinate your care.

Your expert care team includes medical, radiation and surgical oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists, genetic counselors, radiologists, specialized pharmacists, advanced care practitioners, clinical and research nurses, dietitians, nurse navigators and social workers.

Your Treatment Options

Our physicians have deep experience treating all stages of colorectal cancer, including cancer that has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body. This gives them the expertise to develop a customized treatment plan to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Colorectal surgery is the most common rectal and colon cancer treatment. Our highly trained surgeons decide on an appropriate method of surgery based on the tumor’s stage and location, as well as your condition and wishes. Whenever possible, we use advanced, minimally invasive techniques to give you a faster recovery.

Surgery may be used alone or in combination with other therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. We offer the latest colorectal cancer treatments available, including:

  • Polypectomy, a procedure used to remove polyps (growths) from inside of the colon or rectum. It may be performed during a colonoscopy. Then, the polyps are examined to determine if they’re cancerous.
  • Colectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the section of the colon where the tumor is. Depending on how much is removed, the surgery may be referred to as a total colectomy or a partial colectomy.
  • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy, which blocks the specific genes or proteins that cancer cells need to grow, destroying cancer cells and slowing or stopping their growth.
  • Immunotherapy, which uses medications to help the body’s immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. This option is used in select cases.

Clinical Trials for Colorectal Cancer

In addition to standard treatments, clinical trials may also be an option. These voluntary studies give you access to groundbreaking therapies before they’re widely available.

Learn more about our research and clinical trials.

Cancer Support and Survivorship Programs

The cancer care process can feel confusing and overwhelming at times – often involving physical, financial and emotional challenges for you and your family. From diagnosis to survivorship, we have numerous resources available to support you during your treatment experience.

Learn more about our cancer support and survivorship programs.

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