Colon Cancer

Call for a colon cancer appointment

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women. It often begins as small, noncancerous “polyps” in the large intestine (colon) that can, over time, become cancerous. There may be few or no symptoms. With regular screenings, polyps can be found and treated early before they turn into cancer.

When colon cancer is suspected, it is vital for patients to receive a precise diagnosis followed by a targeted treatment plan developed especially for them. Virginia Mason colon cancer patients receive care from a skilled and experienced team that includes gastroenterologists, medical oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists, nutritionists and nurses. Team members work together to personalize each patient’s care, from diagnosis through treatment and recovery, taking into account the patient’s work and personal life. The team answers questions and provides guidance so that patients can make the most informed choices about their care.

To learn more about colon cancer care at Virginia Mason or to make an appointment, please call (206) 341-0060.

Colon Cancer Screening and Staging

Receiving an early and thorough screening when colon cancer is suspected may be the best insurance for surviving and thriving. Test results for any suspected cancer need to be interpreted by experienced and knowledgeable medical specialists, the kind found at Virginia Mason. We screen and treat thousands of patients each year for colon and other gastrointestinal cancers. Studies have shown that patients who are screened and treated at a high-volume medical center like Virginia Mason tend to have better outcomes than those at other places.

If cancer is found, a critical component for determining the best approach to treatment is the accurate “staging” of the cancer. Is it early or advanced? Does the patient need surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy? At Virginia Mason, a combination of endoscopy, MRI, CT and other advanced imaging helps accurately pinpoint the stage of a patient’s cancer so that the most effective treatment will be used. In addition, blood and genetic tests done on the patient’s cancer can help personalize treatment options that may be unique to each person.

These tests are often all done on the same day for a faster diagnosis so that the chosen treatment can begin almost immediately.

Colon Cancer Care

With the largest gastrointestinal cancer program in Seattle, Virginia Mason is a leader in state-of-the-art options in endoscopy, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. An added benefit is that our patients receive their care from all their specialists at one time and in one setting.

  • Dedicated colon cancer surgeons — Our surgeons specialize in surgery of the colon and are specially trained in minimally invasive procedures (laparoscopic, robotic, minimally invasive and trans-anal) that provide patients with a quick recovery along with improved bowel function, fecal continence and cure rates.
  • Internationally recognized GI department — The Digestive Disease Institute at Virginia Mason is ranked among the top five percent in the nation for overall gastroenterology (GI) services. Sometimes early cancers can be completely removed with advanced colonoscopic techniques by our team of gastroenterologists. Patients with advanced colon cancer may avoid an emergency colostomy by first having a stent placed. 

  • Medical oncology — Chemotherapy is a standard requirement in the treatment of locally advanced colorectal cancer and Virginia Mason has a sub-specialized group of GI medical oncologists to offer both standard and clinical trial therapy with chemotherapy and targeted medications. New data has shown that it may be advantageous to give chemotherapy before surgery, so a medical oncology consultation is an important part of multidisciplinary care. Chemotherapy and targeted therapy is a standard way to treat advanced colorectal cancer. Genetic and biomarker testing are performed on all tumors and clinical research trials are offered as an important treatment option to all patients. Learn more about available cancer clinical trials.
  • Radiation oncology — Pre-operative radiation is an important part of care for rectal cancer and in some cases for colon cancer if the tumor is very low. If radiation is a requirement, you will be booked to see a GI radiation oncologist. In the advanced stage, radiation is used to treat any painful tumors.
  • High-volume cancer surgeries — Virginia Mason performs high rates of colon and rectal cancer surgeries and is considered a high-volume hospital for this reason. This is important for our patients as many studies have shown improved outcomes and survival for patients undergoing surgery in hospitals that perform a high volume of colon cancer surgeries. 

  • Dedicated colon cancer tumor board — Virginia Mason physicians hold regular "tumor board" meetings on colon cancer where a multidisciplinary team develops an individualized treatment plan for each patient. The health care professionals on this team are dedicated not just to the immediate next steps in care, but also to “surveillance” and “survivorship.” This means that every colon cancer patient is followed through treatment and beyond to ensure a rapid response should the cancer return or if there are other issues that need attention.  

Clinical Trials

Virginia Mason is relentlessly devoted to providing exceptional health care — which is why we conduct clinical studies to improve the way we diagnose, treat and prevent disease. Benaroya Research Institute (BRI), oversees all clinical research at Virginia Mason, uniquely combining the expertise of a world-renowned medical research institute with the remarkable care of a health care quality leader.

For more than 20 years, the goal of our clinical research program has been to provide each of our patients with a research option at every step of their disease, from initial diagnosis to long-term follow-up. Our trials include the use of chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapies, as well quality of life/symptom management trials. Learn more about our current colon cancer clinical trials.

Personal Guidance

A cancer care manager is with every colon cancer patient every step of the way, from diagnosis through recovery. The care manager is always available to answer questions and assist in every aspect of care.

Prompt Attention

New patients often see a physician the same day they call, allowing treatment to begin quickly. Cancer care managers are readily available to answer patient and family questions and to expedite care.

To learn more about colon cancer care at Virginia Mason or to make an appointment, please call (206) 341-0060.