Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer and rectal cancer care with a personalized approach and compassionate support.

Book Now with a Colorectal Cancer Specialist
At Nuvance Health® Cancer Institute, you receive colorectal cancer care and prevention services without leaving the comfort of your community. You have access to a broad range of treatments, including sophisticated surgeries. Our personalized approach means you receive appropriate therapies and thoughtful support for your unique needs.
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer affects the organs of the large intestine, including the:
  • Colon: The largest intestine between the small bowel and the rectum. It removes water from the solid substance leftover after your body absorbs nutrients from food
  • Rectum: An organ that stores solid waste (stool) until your next bowel movement. Your rectum is an extension of your colon and connects to the anus.

In the vast majority of patients, this type of cancer starts as a noncancerous polyp on the surface of the colon or rectum. Catching the polyp early through a screening exam (colonoscopy) and removing it may help you avoid a cancer diagnosis. Without treatment, polyps may become cancerous and may extend into deeper tissue layers or spread to nearby organs.

Colorectal Cancer Care at Nuvance Health: Why Choose Us?

Many of the colorectal cancer specialists completed additional training through fellowships in advanced gastrointestinal surgery. We are experienced in treating common and complex cancers. Highlights of our program include:

  • Specialized care for high-risk patients:
    Some patients face a higher colorectal cancer risk due to family history. Cancer genetic testing helps you learn whether you are at risk and how the specialists can help. Find out more about cancer genetics.
  • Advanced procedures:
    For eligible patients, care includes minimally invasive techniques. These techniques are gentler on your body and may preserve the ability to control your bowels. For rectal cancer, you may receive transanal (for very early-stage rectal cancer) or transabdominal robotic surgery. Robotic surgical technology enables us to access these hard-to-reach growths and remove them. Explore cancer surgery.
  • Team approach:
    For complex cancers, including ones that extend beyond surface layers of tissue, you benefit from the recommendations of multiple specialists. Colorectal surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other doctors tailor your care in meetings called multidisciplinary tumor boards.
  • Support:
    Cancer nurse navigators are here for you through every step of your care experience. They reach out to you early on to answer questions and provide emotional support. Nurse navigators also help coordinate appointments and explain what to expect so that you can focus on healing.

National Quality Accreditation for Rectal Cancer Program

Norwalk Hospital and Vassar Brothers Medical Center have both achieved an initial three-year accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC), a quality initiative overseen by the American College of Surgeons. Norwalk Hospital stands as Connecticut's sole accredited program by NAPRC and one of just two sites in New England. Similarly, Vassar Brothers Medical Center holds a  position as one of the few programs in the Hudson Valley to receive this distinguished recognition.
Read more
Norwalk Hospital achieves notable national quality accreditation for rectal cancer program

Anal Cancer Due to Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Colorectal cancer specialists also care for people with anal cancer, which occurs in the outer opening of the rectum. One of the biggest anal cancer risk factors is HPV, a virus spread through sexual contact. If you have HPV-positive anal cancer, your care path may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy instead of surgery. We discuss the options that are right for your needs.

Preventing Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer risks increase with age, which is why experts recommend regular screening colonoscopies:

  • Starting at 45 years old for most people
  • An earlier age if you have a family history of the colorectal cancer

This procedure uses a long thin tube with a camera and light at the tip to detect and remove polyps. You receive medication to help you sleep through the procedure and feel no sensation.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer typically don’t cause symptoms. As polyps turn cancerous and become larger, you may notice:

  • Bloody stools
  • Cramping, gas or bloating that won’t quit
  • Diarrhea, narrow stools and other changes in bowel habits
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Weakness

Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer

If we detect a suspicious growth during a colonoscopy, we remove it. For larger growths or ones that extend beyond surface layers of tissue, we may take a sample (biopsy).

Doctors who specialize in diagnosing digestive health issues like cancer (gastrointestinal pathologists) evaluate the biopsy under a microscope. They determine whether it’s cancer, and if so, the severity based on its size and if it has spread.

At Nuvance Health, you may also receive:

  • Genomic testing helps us detect specific changes (mutations) in cancer cell genes. This information assists us in selecting the cancer drugs or other therapies that are likely to stop the mutation.
  • Imaging studies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pinpoint the cancer’s location. Your care may also include a computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Imaging studies help the team plan treatments or determine whether previous treatments have been successful.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

We offer a broad range of colorectal cancer treatments, including:

  • Surgery to remove cancerous growths.
  • Chemotherapy, which includes medications that slow or stop cancer cell growth.
  • Medical oncology, a group of treatments that uses chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy to attack cancer cells. Read more about chemotherapy and other medical oncology.
  • Radiation therapy uses rays of energy used to treat cancer confined to one location. It may be used in addition to chemotherapy or surgery as a part of multidisciplinary care, or used as treatment in some specific cancer types. Explore radiation therapy.
  • Supportive care may include assistance from social workers and therapies to relieve the side effects of treatment. Find out more about supportive therapies.