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Colorectal cancer is malignant cells found in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are part of the large intestine in the digestive system. Colon and rectal cancers share common features and are often called colorectal cancer. Cancerous tumors found in the colon or rectum may also spread to other parts of the body. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women.

People who have any of the following symptoms should check with their doctors, especially if they are over 50 years old or have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer:

  • A change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
  • Rectal bleeding, dark stools or blood in the stool
  • Cramping or gnawing stomach pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue

The symptoms of colorectal cancer may resemble other conditions, such as infections, hemorrhoids and inflammatory bowel disease. It is also possible to have colon cancer and not have any symptoms. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.


Individuals with colon cancer may be treated with one or more of the following:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal surgery 
  • Brachytherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Inova offers treatment for colon cancer at all of its hospitals and is home to the largest number of board-certified and board-eligible colorectal surgeons in the Washington, DC, region. Minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery is available to treat colon and rectal cancer at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital and Inova Loudoun Hospital.

Learn more about robotic-assisted surgery for colorectal surgery

Enterostomal therapy is available to patients who may require this care after colon cancer surgery as a temporary or permanent measure. 

Learn more about Inova's Ostomy Care Program

Inova Fairfax Hospital Advanced Endoscopy Center is the first of its kind in Northern Virginia. Our physicians utilize some of the most innovative endoscopic technologies available to successfully treat both cancerous and non-cancerous diseases of the digestive tract – conditions that once required traditional surgery.