A member of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Network

What to Expect With Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is a disease where abnormal cells grow out of control in the colon, which is part of the large intestine. Since cancers in the colon are usually slow growing, the chances of surviving colon cancer are excellent — especially if it's found and treated early.

At Group Health Medical Centers, we care for our colon cancer patients using the latest medical knowledge and advanced technology. Your cancer care team at Group Health will help you understand what to expect and discuss your treatment options. They provide care and support through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.

Our colon cancer survivors are often able to lead active lives long after treatment has ended.

Developing a Treatment Plan

Once you have an initial diagnosis, you'll meet with one of our cancer specialist doctors — a medical oncologist or surgeon — to discuss treatment options and next steps.

Your doctor might order additional tests to determine the stage of the cancer. The stage confirms the size of the tumor, how fast or slowly it’s growing, and whether cancer has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body.  

Staging helps your cancer doctor plan the right treatment for you. It can also help in finding a clinical trial that you might be able to participate in.

At Group Health, your doctor develops your treatment plan with you, aligned with the best treatments available and your goals and preferences. We encourage you to bring a family member or friend to your appointments to take notes and help ask questions.

Some patients want to get a second opinion for more information about their diagnosis or treatment options.

Colon Cancer Treatment

Treatment for colon cancer most often begins with surgery to remove the cancer. Some may have chemotherapy before surgery, to shrink the size of the cancer growth and make it easier to remove.

Side effects for chemotherapy may include nausea, vomiting, pain, constipation, diarrhea, hair loss, and skin irritation. Side effects depend on the type of chemotherapy drugs.  

At Group Health, we keep up with the changes and improvements in colon cancer treatment. We offer chemotherapy that’s easier to tolerate, and surgery that’s less invasive. We review the latest research findings to make sure our treatments are the most effective.

Planning Ahead

When you have a treatment plan, you can prepare for how it might affect your daily life.

Your care team will let you know what side effects are common for your type of treatment and how you can manage them. A nutritionist can help you plan foods to have on hand. You might want to get a wig, scarves, or hats, if you’re likely to lose your hair.

Adjusting your priorities and work schedule in advance can help ease stress before treatment begins. You may want to contact friends or family members to see if they’re available to help with rides or household needs. Our social work department can provide resources in many areas.

After Treatment

While it may take a while to get your energy back after treatment, most people successfully return to healthy, active lives.

Making certain lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce chances that colon cancer will come back. Keeping up with your follow-up plan for care helps make sure your body continues to heal and problems are found early.

Many people who have had cancer describe themselves as survivors. You’ve gone through a journey of tests, diagnosis, and treatment, handled side-effects, and possibly made major lifestyle changes. Through all of that you’ve continued to manage life and move forward.

You may want to honor the courage in yourself, the connection you make to others, and your ability to survive the challenges you’ve faced with cancer. We honor your journey as well.

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