Colon Cancer & Rectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer.  The Same Or Different?  Ask The Proctologist.

The potential ravages of undiscovered, untreated or uncontrolled colon and rectal cancer are tremendous.  Just ask the colon and rectal surgeon, also known as a proctologist.  150,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and 50,000 patients die of the disease.  Even though these rates have been declining with the advent of colonoscopy and regular screenings, the rates are still way too high.

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Intense, focused research is always being conducted on earlier detection and better treatment of colorectal cancer.  But, are colon and rectal cancers different entities, or should they be lumped together as one disease, colorectal cancer.  It turns out that they are alike, but different.  Importantly, they can both be removed by robot-assisted colon or rectal surgery, also known as robotic colorectal surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.


Both colon and rectal cancers look similar to the naked eye and under the microscope.  Both require surgery.  Both can be treated with chemotherapy (although in different ways).  Both cancers usually begin as polyps.  Importantly, in Los Angeles, and, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, both colon cancer and rectal cancer can be treated with robotic surgery (also known as robot assisted surgery), as well as laparoscopic surgery.  Minimally invasive robotic colorectal surgery is an important tool in retuning patients to their normal daily activities as soon as possible.


Obviously, these tumors occur in different locations, with rectal cancers being found in the last 12 to 15 cm of the large intestine, and the colonic cancers being found throughout the remainder of the colon.  Genetics also plays a role in the development of colon and rectal cancers, with different genetic pathways causing more proximal colon cancers to form in the beginning of the colon (a disease called HNPCC) and a separate genetic abnormality causing distal cancer to form in the end of the colon and in the rectum.

Importantly, the therapies for colon cancer and rectal cancer, while involving surgery, are different prior to surgery.  Rectal cancers are low in the pelvis where there is no other intestine located in any areas close to the rectal cancer.  As a result, radiation, which might damage small intestine surrounding the colon, can be used to treat rectal cancers because there is no small bowel nearby to be damaged.  Chemotherapy is also used preoperatively to treat rectal cancers.  The usual colon cancer cannot be treated with radiation for fear of permanently damaging the adjacent bowel.

The Same Or Different?  Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates.

The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are well trained in the similarities and differences of colon and rectal cancer.  The subtleties of both are commonly addressed by the surgeons.

If you are concerned about screening, or treatment for colorectal cancer, call (310)273-2310 and schedule a confidential appointment.  Your peace of mind and physical health are too important to ignore.  Education is the first step to health.

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