Colorectal Cancer Care

Our doctors are highly experienced in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all stages of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer Care

Our doctors are highly experienced in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all stages of colorectal cancer.

Clinical Trials

Participate in one of our colorectal cancer clinical trials to get access to new therapies.

Join now

We are accredited by the American College of Radiology.

American College of Radiology badge Learn more

Cutting-edge Care for Colon and Rectal Cancers

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, our experienced, compassionate care team can help you receive the care you need and navigate the journey ahead.

Our USC Colorectal Cancer Program doctors are highly experienced in treating simple to complex colorectal cancers — including colon, rectal and anal cancers — and gastrointestinal issues.

At Keck Medicine of USC, you have access to the latest advances in colorectal cancer screening and genetic tumor analysis and profiling. Your care team uses this information to fully understand your specific condition and to design your personalized treatment plan.

To give you a comprehensive and holistic approach to your cancer care, your medical team includes colorectal surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, genetic counselors, registered dietitians, social workers, stoma nurses and nurse navigators. This multidisciplinary team of providers work together to make sure you’re getting the best care possible.

We offer a full range of treatment options and services for colorectal cancer, including:

  • Biologic therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Genetic tumor profiling
  • Ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (J-pouch)
  • Immunotherapy
  • Minimally invasive/laparoscopic surgery
  • Organ-sparing procedures
  • Radiation therapy
  • Robotic surgery
  • Sphincter-sparing surgery (rectal cancer)
  • Targeted therapy
  • Total neoadjuvant therapy (rectal cancer)

Our Treatments and Services for Colorectal Cancer

Our colorectal cancer team is experienced in treating all types and stages of colon and rectal cancers. We carefully evaluate your type of colorectal cancer and design a treatment plan based on the stage of your cancer. Here are the various types of colorectal cancer treatments and services we offer at Keck Medicine of USC.

Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, biologic and targeted therapies (systemic therapies): For colon cancer, chemotherapy is usually given after surgery if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. For rectal cancer, chemotherapy is typically used along with radiation therapy. Immunotherapy may also be used in certain circumstances, such as for profiled tumors that show a genetic mutation that may impact responsiveness to treatment. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted and biologic therapies can also be given to relieve symptoms of colon cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.

Colectomy surgery: When colon cancer is invasive, this surgical procedure is used to remove part or all of the colon. If only a part of the colon is removed, it is called a partial colectomy. If you have this surgery, you may also need a temporary or permanent colostomy procedure.

Colonoscopy: Doctors may be able to remove colon cancer completely during a colonoscopy if the detected cancer is small, localized in a polyp and in a very early stage.

Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): This minimally invasive procedure is used to remove precancerous, abnormal tissue or early-stage cancer in the digestive tract. EMR can be used to remove large polyps that cannot be taken out during a colonoscopy.

Genetic testing: We use genetic testing to understand your risk for colorectal cancer. Our genetic counselors can also work with your family to test them, as well.

Genetic tumor profiling: Analyzing colorectal tumors at the genetic level allows doctors to create a genetic fingerprint of your cancer. This information is used to personalize your colon and rectal cancer treatments and the medications you take. This level of detail helps your care team reduce treatment side effects and improve outcomes.

Ileostomy surgery: This surgical procedure modifies the way your body collects and removes waste (stool). It’s typically done after you have a disease or an injury in your digestive track. Our team also specializes in continent ileostomy and ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (J-pouch) to treat both benign and malignant colorectal disease.

Laparoscopic surgery: In this minimally invasive procedure, your surgeon examines and/or removes tissue from your abdomen. They insert tools through small incisions in your abdominal wall. Polyps that can’t be removed during a colonoscopy may be removed using laparoscopic surgery. We also offer laparoscopically assisted colectomy, which is an advanced procedure where your surgeon removes segments of your colon through minimally invasive techniques.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy may be part of treating rectal cancer, especially if the cancer has penetrated through the wall of the rectum or traveled to nearby lymph nodes.

Rectal surgery: Rectal surgery is a treatment option for rectal cancer. Prior to deciding on a surgical approach, doctors will evaluate the stage of a patient’s rectal cancer and the location of the tumor(s).

Robotic surgery: We offer robotic surgery options, which may help shorten your hospital stay and improve your recovery times. Robotic surgery can also decrease your pain and need for medication, reduce bleeding and leave minimal scarring.

Sphincter-sparing surgery: A surgical procedure that preserves the sphincter during the removal of the colon or rectum (proctectomy).

Total neoadjuvant therapy: Treatment option for rectal cancer that uses chemotherapy and neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy before surgery. It can sometimes prevent the need for surgery.

Learn more about our colorectal surgery team and their approach to cancer care.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colorectal Cancer

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer, also referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, begins in the colon or rectum. Colon cancer develops in the large intestine (colon), while rectal cancer is found in the last several inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancers.

Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells, called polyps. Over time, some of these polyps may become cancer. Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. Doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent or detect colon cancer early.

What causes colon cancer and rectal cancer?

In most cases, it’s not clear what causes colorectal cancer. However, researchers suggest that certain factors, such as family history, diet, weight, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption and age, can increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer and rectal cancer.

Can colon and rectal cancer be passed down genetically?

Gene mutations that increase the risk of colorectal cancer can be passed through families, but these inherited genes are linked to only a small percentage of colon cancers. Our Keck Medicine colorectal cancer team offers you access to genetic testing and counseling services. Our genetic counselors can help you identify your risk for hereditary genetic cancers and create profiles of family members who may also be at risk.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer may develop with few or no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages of the disease. However, signs of colon cancer may include:

  • Abdominal discomfort (frequent gas, bloating, fullness, cramps and pain)
  • Blood in the stool
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling that the bowel will not empty completely
  • Pain with bowel movement
  • Problems related to blood loss (anemia, weakness, shortness of breath, pounding heart, chest pain and intolerance to exercise)
  • Unexplained weight loss

Can colorectal cancer be prevented?

Colorectal cancer screening is an important tool in helping prevent the disease. The American Cancer Society recommends that most people begin screening for colon and rectal cancer at 45 years old. However, if you’re at high risk for colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend that you start screening earlier. You should talk to your doctor to figure out when you should start colorectal cancer screening based on your personal health history.

What types of tests are used to screen for colon cancer at Keck Medicine?

There are several options available for colorectal cancer screening, including:

  • Colonoscopy
  • CT colonography
  • Fecal immunochemical test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test
  • Stool DNA test

Your doctor can help you determine which screening option may be best for you.

How is colorectal cancer treated?

The three primary treatment options for colorectal cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. A treatment plan for colon and rectal cancer will depend largely on the stage of the cancer, how advanced the disease is and whether it has spread to other parts of the body and the genetic profile of your tumor. Our colorectal cancer team will review your individual needs and recommend a customized treatment plan that works for you. Learn more about our colorectal cancer treatment options.

Clinical Trials

Participate in one of our colorectal cancer clinical trials to get access to new therapies.

Join now

We are accredited by the American College of Radiology.

American College of Radiology badge Learn more

We Are Leaders in Colorectal Cancer Care

You get access to our extensive clinical trials program, which is available at our locations throughout Southern California and offers breakthrough treatment therapies for colorectal cancer — most of which are not available at other hospitals.

Our team specializes in minimally invasive colon and rectal surgery techniques, like robotic and laparoscopic surgery, which helps decrease recovery time and pain after surgery.

Our Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program helps speed your recovery during and after your hospital stay.

Your oncologist and genetic counselor work together to genetically profile your tumor and create a genetic blueprint of your cancer — this helps us tailor your treatment, making it more effective with fewer possible side effects.

As part of our patient-focused approach to care, our multidisciplinary team meets regularly to discuss treatment plans and make any needed adjustments to your care.

To help you through the process, we offer colorectal cancer patient support groups and the opportunity to match with a buddy who has undergone treatment for a similar type of cancer.

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