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What Is Colorectal Cancer?

The colon and rectum make up the large intestine. Cancers of the large intestine are often referred to together as called colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancers begin as small, noncancerous (benign) growths called polyps. These growths spread very slowly, sometimes taking 10 or more years to become cancerous. Regular screening tests are used to find and remove polyps before they become cancerous. Colorectal cancer is highly treatable when caught early making screening very important.

Colorectal Cancer Screening & Diagnosis


Northside supports the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) recommendations that colorectal cancer screening for average-risk persons begin at age 45. People with a personal or family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer, or a personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease should talk to their doctor about early screening. 

Download our Comparison Chart of Colorectal Screening Tests.


To diagnose colorectal cancer a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon may perform one or more tests including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and imaging tests. During a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy, the physician may remove a polyp or other sample of tissue (biopsy) from the colon or rectum for examination by a pathologist. If cancer is found, other tests may be required to see if the cancer has spread and to help determine the extent of the disease.

Learn about Northside’s Gastrointestinal Endoscopy services.

Team of Colorectal Cancer Specialists

With the most board certified medical oncologists and 55+ cancer care locations throughout Georgia, we provide cancer diagnostics and treatment close to where you live and work.

Our colorectal cancer patients are cared for by a team of specially trained experts, including multiple specialty physicians, nurses, genetic counselors and other clinicians. Our multidisciplinary colorectal cancer care team ensures patients receive integrated, evidence-based care, utilizing the most innovative, cutting-edge and scientifically supported treatment options.

Northside Hospital’s colorectal team participates in multidisciplinary care conferences where they review radiology and pathology images and discuss the best treatment options, including clinical trials, and agree upon an evidence-based treatment plan. This offers patients the benefit of many expert opinions.


Colorectal Cancer Treatment Options

The primary treatment for colorectal cancer is surgery to remove the part of the colon containing the tumor. Depending on the stage of colorectal cancer, chemotherapy follows surgery. If the tumor is particularly large, the patient may need radiation before or after surgery.

Some medications or supplements may help prevent the development of polyps or colorectal cancer. Making lifestyle changes, especially eating less red meat, losing weight, quitting smoking, and getting more exercise, may help prevent the disease, even in people with a family history of the condition.

For more information about colorectal cancer treatment, please expand the content below.

Click here to learn more about all NHCI Cancer Treatment Options.

Colorectal Cancer Support & Survivorship

Ongoing support is crucial when facing cancer. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of colorectal cancer support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of each patient, including support groups, nutrition counseling, rehabilitation, behavioral health and social work and cancer genetics.

Our nurse navigators are registered nurses with extensive knowledge and training in oncology. They are available to help guide patients from colorectal cancer diagnoses through treatment. They provide education and support cancer patients in making informed decisions. The cancer patient navigation team works with the care team to coordinate treatment. To learn more about oncology patient navigation or to speak with an oncology nurse navigator, please call 404-300-2800 or email [email protected]

Ongoing support is crucial when facing cancer and afterward. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of Support and Survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of colorectal cancer patients.



Patient Education


Five foods to avoid for a healthy colon


Doctor patient relationship tackles colon cancer


Colorectal cancer surge in younger adults: Screening vital


7 ways to prevent colorectal cancer

Patient Stories


David’s story: Beating colon cancer against family odds


Rob's story: A 20-year colon cancer survivor journey


Young’s story: Prioritizing his health after colon cancer