Colorectal Cancer




Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the gastrointestinal system. Colorectal cancers are those that form in the tissues of the colon and rectum, which make up the large intestine in the body. In 2007, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 79,130 men and 74,630 women diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the United States among both men and women. But when it is detected early, it is highly treatable. The five-year survival rate for patients with localized colorectal cancer is 90 percent. The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center provides many unique and innovative services to diagnose and treat colorectal cancers:

  • board-certified gastroenterologist, surgical oncologist, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of colon and rectal cancers
  • innovative minimally invasive surgical treatments, including laparoscopic and robotic-assisted colectomy (colon resection surgery) and rectal resection surgery
  • The Colon Cancer Prevention Center at Hackensack University Medical Center
  • The Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment Program for patients with a personal or family history of colorectal, ovarian, breast, or endometrial cancer
  • the full spectrum of endoscopy and colonoscopy services to detect and treat colorectal polyps (which may progress into cancerous tumors if not removed)
  • clnical trials to investigate new medications and colon cancer treatment options
  • a full range of support services 



A diagnosis of colorectal cancer is usually made by using several different approaches. We know that the tests needed to make a diagnosis of colorectal cancer may make your feel squeamish or anxious, but our staff will do their best to make you feel comfortable and calm. Our diagnostic services for colorectal cancer include:

  • blood count
  • fecal occult blood test
  • digital rectal exam
  • sigmoidoscopy
  • colonoscopy
  • virtual colonoscopy
  • barium enema
  • tumor markers (substances that indicate the presence of cancerous cells)
  • tissue biopsy
  • ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • angiogram



Although colon cancer is the third deadliest cancer among men and women in the United States, it is highly preventable. If it is detected in a pre-cancerous stage in a polyp, it can be prevented in almost 90 percent of all cases. The Colon Cancer Prevention Center at Hackensack University Medical Center is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to providing the full range of colon cancer screenings. The center brings together the region's most sophisticated diagnostic technology and a highly skilled, experienced staff in an ultramodern outpatient facility specially designed for patients' maximum comfort and privacy.

The Colon Cancer Prevention Center is spearheaded by a team of board-certified gastroenterologists with extensive expertise and experience in endoscopy. They work in consultation with patients' other doctors to coordinate screening preparations and follow-up recommendations. The Colon Cancer and Prevention Center offers the following colon cancer screenings:

  • colonoscopy
  • flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • digital rectal exam
  • fecal occult blood test of the stool
  • X-ray studies

In addition to screenings, education is a main focus of the Colon Cancer Prevention Center. Patients are provided with an assessment of their risk for colon cancer based on an analysis of their family and personal histories, diet, and lifestyle. For patients at high risk, the center's staff offer recommendations on lifestyle and dietary changes. Patients who have a family history of colon cancer are provided with immediate access to experts in genetic counseling.



Age and family history can affect your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Risk factors include:

  • being over age 50 (more than 90 percent of all cases)
  • a family history of cancer of the colon or rectum
  • a personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast
  • a history of polyps in the colon
  • a history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease)
  • smoking
  • physical inactivity
  • a high-fat and/or low-fiber diet
  • alcohol consumption
  • a low intake of fruits and vegetables
  • certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer



Possible signs of colorectal cancer include a change in bowel habits or blood in the stool; diarrhea; constipation; the feeling that the bowel does not completely empty; stools that are narrower than usual; frequent gas pains or abdominal bloating, fullness, or cramps; weight loss with no known reason; constant tiredness; or vomiting.


Your doctor will decide the best way to treat your colorectal cancer based on the stage and location of the cancer and your overall health and age. Of all the colon cancer treatment options, surgery is the most common, but a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy may be advised.


There are several types of surgery used to treat colorectal cancers. At The Cancer Center, we have one of the nation's largest and best programs for treating colorectal cancers. We have several board-certified surgical oncologists who specialize in treating just colorectal cancers. They are skilled in using minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic-assisted techniques to remove cancerous colorectal tumors. These types of surgery are not readily available in the tri-state area but are here at The Cancer Center. These procedures result in less pain and bleeding, a shorter hospitalization, less scarring, and a faster recuperation than traditional open colectomy surgery. Other types of surgery available at The Cancer Center include:

  • local excision using endoscopic methods
  • segmental resection of the tumor, normal tissue, and lymph nodes
  • resection and temporary or permanent colostomy
  • radiofrequency ablation using radio waves and heat energy to destroy a liver metastasis
  • cryosurgery using extreme cold to treat a liver metastasis

Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy may be combined with surgery and/or chemotherapy to treat colorectal cancer. Endocavity radiation therapy, which is directed through the anus to reach the rectum without passing through skin and tissues of the abdomen, may also be used.


Chemotherapy may be used as an adjuvant (additional) therapy to increase survival rates for patients with some stages of colorectal cancer after surgical resection. It is also used to treat colorectal cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is also used in combination with radiation therapy to shrink tumors both before and after surgery and as a palliative (ease) treatment to relieve symptoms of advanced colorectal cancer.

The Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment Program

If you have a personal or family history of colorectal, ovarian, or endometrial cancer, you may be at increased risk of developing breast cancer. Our Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment Program offers genetic counseling and testing services to determine each patient's risk. A medical management plan is developed for each patient and may include various methods to reduce risk factors, including medication, prophylactic surgery, diet, exercise, smoking cessation, and other recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. Various issues are discussed, such as privacy, insurance, psychosocial, and family issues. We keep up to date on patients through our high-risk registry. For more information or to make an appointment, call (201) 996-5264.