Colorectal Cancer Overview

Early detection saves lives

Colorectal cancer, also called colon or rectal cancer, is the third leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. It is the most common type of gastrointestinal cancer, and is also one of the most treatable cancers when found early.

For decades, colorectal cancer was most often diagnosed in people age 50 and over. More recent study data shows the incidence of colorectal cancer declining in people 50 and over and dramatically increasing in younger people. Between 1994 to 2014, there was a 51% increase in colorectal cancer rates among adults younger than 55. In that same age group, there was an 11% increase in colorectal cancer-related mortality from 2005 to 2015.

Because of this shift, the American Cancer Society revised its colorectal cancer screening guidelines for people at average risk. According to the updated ACS guidelines, beginning at age 45, individuals at average risk of colorectal cancer should have regular screening with one of six different tests, either stool-based or visual examination. These include:

  • Fecal immunochemical test, or FIT, yearly. FIT tests for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of cancer.
  • Fecal occult blood test, or FOBT, yearly. FOBT detects blood in the stool, which may be a sign of colorectal cancer, ulcers or polyps.
  • Stool DNA test, every 3 years. This test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps.
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years. The exam detects changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum by inserting a long, flexible tube into the rectum.
  • CT colonography, or virtual colonoscopy, every 5 years. The medical imaging procedure uses X-rays and computers to produce two- and three-dimensional images of the colon from the rectum to the lower end of the small intestine.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years. The exam evaluates the lower part of the large intestine by inserting a thin, flexible tube into the rectum.

Any abnormal test result from a noncolonoscopy screening should be followed up with colonoscopy. In addition:

  • Average-risk adults in good health should continue colorectal cancer screening through age 75.
  • For patients between 76 and 85, screening decisions should be made jointly with clinicians based on patient preferences, life expectancy, health status and prior screening history.
  • People over 85 should not have colorectal cancer screening.

Why choose us?

Experience and expertise
Our colorectal cancer specialists are dedicated to ensuring you receive the highest quality and most personalized treatment options available. This includes precision medical oncology, the latest surgical options and radiation therapy.

Where you receive cancer treatment matters. Our multidisciplinary team of gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons and GI oncologists are specialists who have years of experience treating patients with colorectal cancer.

Academic approach
Because we are an academic center, we offer the region’s most advanced cancer treatments. We are constantly discovering new treatments to improve lives. We use leading-edge techniques and technologies to improve patient outcomes and reduce side effects. We also apply the latest findings in cancer research.

Care close to home
At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we frequently work with community healthcare providers, including those from across the state of Kansas. Whenever possible, you can receive some of your treatment close to home, as we coordinate your care with your local provider.

Coordinated care
Each person is unique, so we tailor your care to your personal needs. This means doctors, nurses and other staff work closely together to develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs. We discuss every patient’s treatment as a team to stay up-to-date on your care and progress.

Clinical trials
At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we provide nationally recognized leading-edge treatment through clinical trials. Clinical trials lead to new ways to prevent, detect or treat disease and are at the heart of all medical advances.

Nearly all cancer treatments used today were studied and made available to patients through clinical trials. In the last six years alone, our researchers have advanced seven new cancer drugs into clinical trials. At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, these advances are happening now. We are changing the world. One trial, one life, at a time. Read more.

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Clinical Trials

Medical research finds ways to help people live longer, improve their quality of life and manage or cure disease. This is possible because of the people who volunteer to participate in clinical trials.

Learn more about clinical trials »
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24 hour appointment

The University of Kansas Cancer Center offers patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer the opportunity to see a physician within 24 hours of contacting us. Click here to learn more.