Colon & Rectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer

The term colorectal cancer is used to describe both colon and rectal cancers. As the area’s leading experts in treating colorectal diseases and disorders, Our Colon and Rectal Surgeons provide the most advanced medical options available for the prevention and treatment of both.

Who is at Risk?

Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, and the risk increases after age 50. Additional risk factors include having a chronic inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease or having a parent, sibling, or child with colorectal cancer or polyps.


Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable. Colorectal cancer is treatable and potentially curable when detected in its initial stages. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons reports that 80-90% of patients are restored to normal health if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early.

Prevention starts with a screening colonoscopy. Almost all colorectal cancers begin as benign polyps in the colon. We can quickly find and remove polyps during a screening colonoscopy, preventing them from becoming cancer. UT Physicians Colon and Rectal Clinic recommends you have a screening colonoscopy at age 45 and as advised by your physician after that.

Healthy choices help prevent colorectal cancer. While screening colonoscopies can prevent colorectal cancer by detecting polyps, a healthy lifestyle also goes a long way toward circumventing the disease. There are many simple choices you can make to help keep colorectal cancer at bay:

  • Exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat high-fiber foods
  • Avoid high-fat foods
  • Don’t smoke

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Often, early colorectal cancer has no symptoms at all. This is why a screening colonoscopy is vitally important. Other times, the first sign of colorectal cancer is a low red blood cell count (anemia) due to undetected internal bleeding.

But many times, there are clear warning signs. Colorectal cancer may cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A change in bowel habits (e.g., diarrhea, constipation, narrowing of the stool, etc.) lasting more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool, which may cause the stool to look dark
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Other non-cancerous conditions such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease may also exhibit similar symptoms. If you experience one or more, see your doctor immediately to find and treat the cause.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment Options

Despite its high recovery rate, colorectal cancer remains the second-most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Prevention is best. But if you are among the 140,000 people affected by the disease each year, UT Physicians Colon and Rectal Surgery can help.

Robotic colorectal surgery begins much like traditional laparoscopic surgery. Once the patient is anesthetized, one of our certified robotic colorectal surgery specialists makes four tiny incisions, inserts trocars, and inflates the abdominal cavity. The surgeon then docks the robotic unit—a four-armed device that operates a laparoscope and up to three specialized surgical instruments—into the trocars and moves to a separate console. Using a high-definition 3-D monitor and hand controls, your surgeon can perform the operation with unprecedented precision and is always in complete control—the robot cannot move without instructions from the surgeon.

Laparoscopic colorectal surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique in which a micro-camera and micro-instruments are used to view the contents of the abdomen and perform surgery. UT Physicians are renowned experts in laparoscopic colorectal surgery and frequently lead national teaching seminars on the subject. Our specialists perform most of all colorectal surgeries laparoscopically, thus assuring patients faster recovery and less pain than traditional invasive methods used by 80% of surgeons.

Transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEMS) is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure used to remove rectal polyps or growths that are too high or too large to access via colonoscopy or traditional invasive transanal methods, thus avoiding abdominal surgery. Performed through the anus, no incisions are needed, and patients typically feel no pain during the procedure. TEMS is used specifically to treat early rectal cancers and has a much lower rate of polyps recurrence compared to standard transanal removal.

Transanal minimally invasive surgery (TAMIS) is a newer minimally invasive technique for performing local excision of well-selected rectal neoplasms. It utilizes a single-incision laparoscopic port as access into the rectal vault. TAMIS provides a quality of surgical resection similar to TEM.