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Colon Cancer Causes and Diagnosis

Know Your Colon Cancer Risk Factors

Receive an Accurate Colon Cancer Diagnosis

Being told that you or a loved one has colon cancer can feel overwhelming, but our team is here to help. We hope that sharing information and resources can empower you in the battle against colon cancer.

Learning about how colon cancer is diagnosed may make you feel less afraid. It can also help you work collaboratively with your health care team, which includes:

  • Surgical oncologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Nurses

Coping with a colon cancer diagnosis can be stressful for you and your family. We encourage you to talk to your health care team about seeing psychosocial support in addition to your doctors. We also offer various support services so you and your loved ones do not feel alone during your cancer journey.


If you have colon cancer symptoms and/or an abnormality on your colon cancer screening, your doctor may order tests to make a colon cancer diagnosis, including:

  • Medical history review. Symptoms and risk factors are analyzed.
  • Physical examination. The abdomen is felt for masses and enlarged organs. A digital rectal exam may be used to feel for abnormal areas in the rectum.
  • Colonoscopy. A thin, lighted tube is inserted through the anus and rectum up into the colon. A small camera at the end of the tube shows images of the colon as the tube moves through. The doctor examines these images for signs of cancer.
  • Biopsy. A piece of tissue is collected, usually during a colonoscopy or surgery, and sent to the laboratory for cancer analysis.
  • Biomarker testing of the tumor. Also called molecular testing, these are laboratory tests that are done on a tumor to identify specific genes, proteins or other unique factors. Results can influence potential treatment options.
  • Blood tests. A complete blood count (CBC) can be used to tell if colon cancer has bled into the large intestine or rectum. A blood test for the protein carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) may also be used. High CEA levels may indicate that cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
  • Imaging tests. Pictures of the colon are taken and analyzed for signs of cancer. Common imaging tests include computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, chest x-ray, positron emission tomography (PET), or PET-CT scan.

Stages of Colon Cancer

Upon diagnosis, you will receive information about the stage of cancer and whether or not it has spread to other regions of the body. The stage of cancer is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding on cancer treatment options.

Colon Cancer Causes

Researchers continue to study the causes of colon cancer. Certain risk factors increase the chances of getting the disease.

Colon cancer risk factors that you can control include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • Diets high in red and processed meats
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Having type 2 diabetes

Colon cancer risk factors that you cannot control include:

  • Age (colon cancer is much more common after 50)
  • Personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
  • Having an inherited syndrome
  • Racial/ethnic background

Comprehensive Support for Colon Cancer Care

Our multifaceted teams help you cope with every aspect of your care from diagnosis to recovery. Our oncology nurse navigators help patients through the entire gastrointestinal cancer journey, from securing initial appointments to coordinating follow-up visits related to treatments and procedures, all the way through aspects of survivorship. Oncology nurse navigators also can refer you to social workers or financial counselors for matters about health insurance, financial and other challenges.

To contact one of New Jersey’s best colon cancer specialists call
(844) CANCERNJ or (844) 226-2376.

Patient Stories

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RWJBarnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center
200 South Orange Avenue
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-7000
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94 Old Short Hills Road
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(973) 322-5000
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300 Second Avenue
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(732) 222-5200
Clara Maass Medical Center
1 Clara Maass Drive
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(973) 450-2000
Community Medical Center
99 Highway 37 West
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 557-8000
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
RWJ University Hospital Rahway
865 Stone Street
Rahway, NJ 07065
(732) 381-4200
RWJ University Hospital Somerset
110 Rehill Avenue
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 685-2200
The Unterberg Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center
300 2nd Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 923-7250
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus
600 River Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701
(732) 363-1900

Colon Cancer Treatment & Care

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