At St. Clair Health, we understand the uncertainty that comes with colorectal conditions and diagnosis. One of the most advanced colorectal surgical teams in western Pennsylvania is here for you, close to home. Our team of experts are highly trained and experienced in their field to provide our patients with exceptional and compassionate care. With state-of-the-art technology, treatments and procedures are less severe and bring peace of mind to our community. St. Clair’s Colorectal Surgery team works closely with medical oncologists and radiation oncologists affiliated with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists, and nurse navigators. Frequent collaborative discussions occur with this team of experts to help guide patient care and treatment through every step.
Two of the most common types of adult GI cancers include:
Colon cancer usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time some of these polyps can become cancerous.
Rectal cancer is very similar to colon cancer and the same processes occur in the rectum which is the last portion of the colon. Malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the rectum and can grow at a rapid pace.
Ostomy is a procedure that makes a temporary/permanent opening in the skin called a stoma. A stoma is a pathway from an internal organ to the outside of your abdomen.
Medical Oncology uses chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy to focus on specific mutations and to eliminate cancer cells. These therapeutics for colorectal cancers are usually given after surgery if the cancer is larger, has spread to the lymph nodes, or has other concerning pathologic features. These therapies might also be used before an operation to shrink a large cancer so that it’s easier to remove with surgery, reduce the bulk of tumor burden for symptom relief, or treat micrometastatic disease.
Radiation therapy uses powerful energy sources, such as X-rays and protons, to eliminate cancer cells. It might be used to shrink a large cancer before an operation so that it can be removed more easily. When surgery isn’t an option, radiation therapy might be used to relieve symptoms, such as pain. Sometimes radiation is combined with chemotherapy.
Although cancer doesn’t have to define you, the disease changes your life in a number of ways. You’ll have to deal with the immediate and long-term physical effects of treatment, ongoing screening and monitoring, new concerns about staying healthy and a wide range of emotions.
This post-treatment period is called survivorship. While survivorship varies from patient to patient, there are some common concerns that often affect cancer survivors. We encourage you to follow up with your specialist and team for local recommendations regarding survivorship resources and support programs.
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Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer or catch in early stages of cancer.
Talk with your Primary Care Physician (PCP) to learn more about the importance behind colonoscopy screenings.
In this series, Dr. Scott Holekamp answers your questions on colorectal health and symptoms to colon cancer to help early detection.