World-Class Colorectal Cancer Care
Stamford Health Bennett Cancer Center partners with Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center to offer you a wide range of services, from diagnosis to treatment. Our multidisciplinary team approach allows us to perform research and provide the best, most innovative and compassionate care, closer to home.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colon cancer is a cancer of colon cells. Rectal cancer is a cancer of rectal cells. These cancers are often referred together as colorectal cancer. Almost all colon and rectal cancers are adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinomas are cancers of cells that line glands and, in the case of colon cancer, make mucus.
Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer:
- Change in bowel habits
- Blood in the stool
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Unexplained weight loss
- Sometimes, you may not experience any symptoms
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer:
- Family history (colorectal cancer before age 50, endometrial cancer before age 50)
- Lynch syndrome - an inherited syndrome that is a common cause of colorectal cancer. It also increases the risk for other types of cancer.
- History of polyps
- The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age
- Lack of physical activity, obesity, alcohol, and tobacco use
- Low fiber, high-fat diet low in fruit and vegetables may contribute
The risk of developing colorectal cancer at some point in your life is about 1 in 20, according to the American Cancer Society. However, increased awareness has led to an increase in colonoscopies with more early detection, which is good news. That's why the American Cancer Society now recommends colorectal cancer screening begin at age 45 for people of average risk.
What Makes Colorectal Cancer Treatment at Stamford Health Unique?
Every month, our team holds a GI Tumor meeting to review and assess individual patient cases to help make the best decisions in care going forward. This meeting is attended by all the members of our team including our counterparts at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and includes colorectal surgeons, oncologic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, and gastroenterologists.
On an ongoing basis, the Bennett Cancer Center’s Cancer Committee reviews, monitors, and reports on quality of care measures established by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC).
The pathologists at Stamford Hospital work closely with our colorectal surgeons, oncologic surgeons, gastroenterologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, and the geneticist at the Stamford Hospital Colorectal Cancer Registry Program. Having an accurate diagnosis helps our physicians determine the most effective treatment for you.
What are Some Ways to Detect Colon Cancer?
Colorectal cancer tests can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon and rectum, and polyps can be removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best and the chance for a full recovery is very high.
Our colorectal team offers you the following colorectal cancer screening procedures:
- Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) - An at-home test that checks for occult (hidden) blood in the stool. This test is recommended yearly. (If blood is found, a follow-up colonoscopy may be needed.)
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy - This test is conducted at the doctor's office, a clinic or a hospital. The doctor uses a narrow, flexible, lighted tube to look at the inside of the rectum and the lower portion of the colon. During the exam, the doctor may remove some polyps and collect samples of tissue or cells for closer examination. This test is recommended every five years. If polyps are found, your doctor will recommend a follow-up colonoscopy.
- Colonoscopy - Colonoscopy is conducted in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital. You'll be given a sedative to make the procedure more comfortable, while the doctor uses a similar type of tube to look at the inside of the rectum and the entire colon. During the exam, your doctor may remove some polyps and collect samples of tissue or cells for closer examination. This test is recommended every 10 years or more frequently, depending on findings and risks.
Bowel resection surgery is often the main treatment for earlier-stage colorectal cancer. To avoid major surgery, we perform laparo-endoscopic resection of large benign tumors. And whenever possible, our team emphasizes minimally invasive surgery. This typically involves a smaller incision and can ultimately reduce postoperative pain and medication levels, as well as speed the return of bowel function. We use the DaVinci platform when indicated for better visualization and precise dissection during surgery.
Remember, our colorectal surgeons always want to provide you with the most appropriate treatment options for your individual situation, including the tumor location and the extent of your cancer. We’re committed to employing early recovery pathways after colorectal surgery for faster recovery, a quicker return home, and less chance of post-operative complications.
Whenever possible, we use minimally invasive techniques including the DaVinci robotic platform or better outcomes. We also perform Transanal endoscopic microsurgery for those whose rectal tumors are detected in the early stages. We use lapro-endoscopic surgery for large polyps that would traditionally require major surgery.
While both colon and rectal cancers are closely related, it’s important to distinguish the differences in surgical treatment. In some cases, rectal surgery can result in urinary or sexual dysfunction. It’s crucial that only a skilled and experienced surgeon, who provides nerve-sparing surgery, performs your procedure.
Our rectal cancer team is in the process of being accredited by OSTRiCh Consortium (Optimizing the Surgical Treatment of Rectal Cancers), a national multidisciplinary group whose focus is on rectal cancer. This would put Stamford Hospital among a diverse group of healthcare institutions dedicated to improving the quality of rectal cancer care in the US through advocacy, education and research.
What Colorectal Cancer Treatment Options Besides Chemotherapy and Surgery Exist?
We offer a unique outpatient option to complement existing chemotherapy treatments or as a standalone procedure. Yttrium 90 (Y90) was created for those whose stage IV colorectal cancer has spread to the liver and is inoperable. This FDA-approved treatment:
- Releases millions of tiny beads to the site of the liver tumors to decrease their size
- Spares surrounding healthy liver tissue
- Lessens the chance of side effects, which can mean a better quality of life