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Colon and Rectal Cancer Services at UPMC in Central Pa.

UPMC's colon and rectal surgeons in Central Pa. take a team approach to colon and rectal cancer care and work closely with other health care specialists to develop your personalized treatment plan.

Why choose UPMC for colon and rectal cancer treatment?

Our board-certified colon and rectal surgeons have more than 75 years of collective experience and are skilled in open, laparoscopic, robotic, and other minimally invasive surgical techniques. Whenever possible, we use sphincter-preserving techniques and other approaches that preserve natural bowel function. And, our surgeons will use minimally invasive techniques to shorten your recovery time, decrease pain, and improve outcomes.

Our specialists understand that treating colon and rectal cancer is a team effort. That’s why our colon and rectal surgeons work closely with your family doctor, gastroenterologist, and other medical specialists — including pathologists, radiologists, and radiation and medical oncologists — to develop a treatment plan that is specific to your condition.

Our multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists meets twice a month to discuss cancer cases. During these meetings, our cancer specialists combine their knowledge and expertise to create a personalized cancer treatment plan for you.

Our experts also use leading-edge technology and techniques to diagnose and treat colon and rectal cancer. We offer a full range of tests and treatments, including:

Screening and Diagnostic Tests for Colon and Rectal Cancer

  • Colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a 20-30-minute outpatient procedure to screen for colorectal cancer. It allows your doctor to see and examine the inside of your entire colon. The procedure usually is performed while you are under anesthesia.

Surgical Procedures for Colon and Rectal Cancer

Surgical procedures to treat colon and rectal cancer include:

  • Colectomy. A colectomy removes all or part of your colon. Colectomies can be performed using traditional open techniques or laparoscopically using tiny instruments inserted into several small incisions in your abdomen. If necessary, your doctor may also perform a colostomy or an ileostomy, which reroutes stool through a stoma, or an opening in your abdomen, where it is collected in a bag.
  • Local transanal resection. A local transanal resection can be used to treat early-stage rectal cancers and is performed using instruments that are inserted into your anus. This procedure does not require incisions in your abdomen.
  • Low anterior resection (LAR). During a LAR, your doctor will remove the part of your rectum that contains the tumor and will reattach your colon to the remaining part of your rectum.
  • Polypectomy. A polypectomy is performed during a colonoscopy. Your doctor will remove abnormal cells that have grown into a polyp by cutting the growth off the wall of your colon.
  • Proctectomy. A proctectomy is a procedure to remove your entire rectum. Your surgeon may also perform a procedure called a colo-anal anastomosis, which connects your colon to your anus.
  • Transanal minimally invasive surgery (TAMIS). TAMIS treats early-stage rectal cancers using a specially designed scope that is inserted into your anus.

What is colon and rectal cancer?

Colon and rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer for short, occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control and form tumors in the lining of your colon and/or rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as polyps that can turn into cancer if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of colon and rectal cancer?

Colon and rectal cancers do not usually cause symptoms until they are advanced. That’s why it is important to have a colonoscopy, which can help your doctor find colon and rectal cancer in its earliest stages. Symptoms of colon and rectal cancer include:

  • Abdominal cramps or pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • Dark-colored stools
  • Diarrhea or constipation that lasts for several days
  • Change in bowel pattern
  • Narrow stools
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unintended weight loss

Who is at risk for colon and rectal cancer?

Colon and rectal cancer is more common in people over age 45. If you have a personal or family history of colon or rectal cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease, you may be more likely to develop colon or rectal cancer. Obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and a diet that includes high amounts of processed and red meats also can increase your risk. 

How can I prevent colon and rectal cancer?

Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can reduce your risk of developing colon and rectal cancer. You should also avoid smoking and limit alcoholic beverages.

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