Colon Cancer


Colon Cancer Care

When you have cancer, you need a team of strong support. A diagnosis of colon or rectal cancer can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone. We are here for you every step of the way through your journey of diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer treatments have progressed significantly in recent years and survivor rates have increased as a result.

Coordinated Team Approach 

We provide coordinated care that includes the latest treatments in surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Each patient is an active partner in their care team. Our goal is for patients to be involved in all decisions related to care and to always know the next step.

We want to help you feel healthy again. In addition to the critical medical treatments you will receive, we offer health and wellness services that treat the whole body and mind, promoting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

Learn more about our colon and rectal cancer services and what you can expect during your treatment journey. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at 231-392-8400 or

Patient Story About Colorectal Cancer

Read Cindy's full story about living with colorectal cancer and the importance of early screening here.

What is Colon/Rectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum. It is the third most common cancer in men and women.

Located in the lower part of the digestive system, the colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine. During digestion, food travels through the stomach and small intestine into the colon. The colon absorbs nutrients and water from the food and stores the waste matter called stool. Stool moves from the colon to the rectum before leaving the body.

Most colorectal cancers begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids. This type of cancer is called adenocarcinoma.

Colorectal cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp. Polyps can develop on the inner wall of the colon or rectum and some polyps become cancerous over time. Finding and removing polyps can prevent colorectal cancer.

Risk Factors

  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease 

  • Increasing age

  • Inherited genetic conditions, such as Lynch Syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

  • Type 2 diabetes

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • High consumption of red or processed meat

  • Long-term smoking

  • Low calcium intake

  • Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption

  • Obesity

  • Physical inactivity

  • Very low intake of fruit and vegetables

Consumption of whole grain fiber reduces risk.

Learn More

What to Expect


Cancer treatment begins with a diagnosis. Through testing, your care team will determine your type of cancer. These test results will help us develop an individualized treatment plan for you.

We understand that this phase can be very difficult as you are waiting for answers. Our goal is to move you through the diagnostic process as quickly as possible in order to minimize the emotional strain.

Your Treatment Plan

We offer a coordinated approach to care that varies based on your specific needs.

Your case may be discussed at our weekly Tumor Board meetings. This is a multidisciplinary team of physicians and support staff that discusses patients’ care plans and makes recommendations for multiple types of cancer.

After testing and consultations are complete, your surgeon or gastroenterologist will explain to you the type, stage, and characteristics of the cancer and discuss treatment. You may be referred to a medical oncologist and or radiation oncologist depending on your needs and care plan.

Treatment for your cancer will depend upon the type, location, and stage of the cancer. Other factors that impact treatment decisions include your age and other health conditions.

Our physicians provide the latest in treatments. When more complex treatments are necessary, we work closely with specialists across the state and nation.

Your treatment plan may include a combination of any one of the following approaches:

Learn More about Colon and Rectal Cancer Treatment

Health and Wellness at the Cowell Family Cancer Center

We believe that everything matters in cancer treatment.

The Health and Wellness Suite at the Cowell Family Cancer Center in Traverse City offers space for physical, emotional and spiritual healing through integrative therapies, meditation, exercise, nutrition and the arts.

Services are available for patients, staff, family members, caregivers and the community.

Services include:

Meet our Care Team

Our team of specialists provide screening, diagnosis, and treatment for colon and rectal cancer. Your care team may include:

GastroenterologistsPhysicians who specialize in diseases of the digestive system, also called the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

General SurgeonsSurgeons who are knowledgeable in anatomy, physiology, metabolism, immunology, nutrition, pathology, wound healing, shock and resuscitation, intensive care, and cancer.

Radiation OncologistsPhysicians with an expertise in the use of radiation therapy for treating cancer.

Medical OncologistsPhysicians who specialize in using medical methods to treat cancer. Your medical oncologist may diagnose the cancer, choose the appropriate medical treatment method, provide follow-up care, and coordinate palliative care to help ease symptoms.

Cancer Genetics Nurse Practitioner: A registered nurse with advanced education and special training in cancer genetics.

Interventional Radiologist: A radiologist who uses image guidance methods to gain access to vessels and organs. Interventional radiologists can treat certain conditions through the skin that might otherwise require surgery.

The Cowell Family Cancer Center Support Team

Genetics Consultation

Colon cancer can be associated with certain hereditary gene changes that may increase the risk of developing cancer. These gene changes can be passed on to family members.

Depending on your family history and personal risk factors, you may be referred to our cancer genetics clinic for a consultation.

During this meeting, you will talk to our nurse practitioner who is specially trained in cancer genetics to discuss your family’s risk and genetic testing options available. If certain criteria are met, testing may be recommended and it is offered through our clinic.

Support and Guidance

Our care coordination team is here to support you and includes a nurse navigator and nurse practitioner who will ensure that your next steps are planned and communicated.

Our compassionate team also includes speech therapists, a dietitian, a social worker, palliative/supportive care providers, and financial navigators to ensure that your individual needs are addressed.

For more information regarding Cowell Family Cancer Center services or to be transferred to a regional network facility, call 231-392-8400 and speak with one of our resource specialists.

Availability of support services varies according to the specific regional cancer network location.

Treatment Locations

Cowell Family Cancer Center

You can find treatment and resources for colorectal cancer at our Cowell Family Cancer Center on the Munson Medical Center campus in Traverse City. This state-of-the-art cancer center opened in 2016 and provides most cancer services including diagnosis, treatment, integrative therapies, follow-up, and supportive care.

Other Locations

Medical oncology follow up visits and chemotherapy may be available to you close to home through our regional cancer network.

Clinical Trials for Colorectal Cancer

Clinical trials are studies that involve people and are the final research step in a long process that begins with lab research. You may want to consider participating in a clinical trial.

Depending on the clinical trial, part of your care may need to occur in Traverse City.

We have participated in cancer clinical trials for over 30 years through the National Cancer Institute. This program offers our patients the chance to participate in large, national research trials while remaining at home in northern Michigan.

To learn more about clinical trials for colon and rectal cancer, visit these websites or talk to your doctor: