Colon Cancer Survivorship

About Colon Cancer

At Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center, patients with colon cancer receive their care from a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of gastrointestinal cancer.

The colon is the largest part of the large intestine, also known as the large bowel. After food is chewed and swallowed, it travels through the stomach and small intestine where it is broken down and most of the nutrients absorbed. It then passes to the large intestine where water and nutrients are absorbed from the food and waste matter is stored. The colon's function is to change liquid waste into solid waste and prepare it to be expelled from the body through the anus.

Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in both men and women, and is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Colon cancer is cancer that forms in the lining tissues of the colon. Most colon tumors begin when normal tissue forms a polyp, or pre-cancerous growth projecting from the wall of the colon. As the polyp grows, a tumor forms. Because the tumor grows slowly, early detection is possible through screening and tests.

Colon cancer is often combined with rectal cancer and can be referred to as “colorectal cancer.”

Penn Medicine's multidisciplinary approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment provides better outcomes and gives patients access to the most advanced treatment, surgical techniques and clinical trials.

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more About Colon Cancer

Diagnosing Colon Cancer

An accurate cancer diagnosis from trusted cancer specialists is the first step in getting personalized treatment options to treat colon cancer.

Patients who choose Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center benefit from a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists including gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists and surgeons who work together to provide a diagnosis and joined by radiation oncologists and medical oncologists to develop an appropriate treatment plan customized for each patient with colon cancer.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine are highly experienced in using the most advanced techniques for diagnosing colon cancer and are actively researching better and more precise ways to detect colon cancer.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right person. Penn Medicine’s contact center has experienced cancer nurses available and ready to guide patients in finding the cancer specialist right for them.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Diagnosing Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer Treatment

Following the diagnosis and staging of colon cancer, cancer specialists at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center develop a personalized treatment plan. Penn’s treatment options for colon cancer include:

  • Surgery
    • Segmented colon resection
    • Local excision
    • Resection of limited metastatic disease
  • Radiation therapy
    • 3-D conformal radiation
    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT)
    • Proton therapy
  • Chemotherapy and biologic therapies
    • Chemotherapy (alone or combined with monoclonal antibody therapy)
    • Liver-directed therapies
    • Monoclonal antibody therapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Other treatments
    • Integrative medicine and wellness
    • Palliative care
    • Penn Home Care and Hospice

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right person.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 1-800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Colon Cancer Treatment

Colon Cancer Survivorship

Survivorship programs at Penn Medicine are a distinct phase of colon cancer care and are designed to help patients' transition from their cancer treatment routine to a post-cancer care lifestyle. There are more than 12 million cancer survivors living and thriving today as a result of advances in cancer treatment. However, cancer treatments can result in physical, emotional and financial complications long after the therapy is complete.


Personalized Survivorship Care

At the end of treatment, colon cancer patients should schedule a survivorship visit with their oncologist and nurse practitioner. At this time, patients are provided with a summary of the treatment received as well as a plan for follow-up care.

Penn cancer providers work one-on-one with patients to develop survivorship care plans. Since every cancer is unique, the plans are tailored to the patients. 

The survivorship care plan includes information on:

  • Potential long-term or late side effects of cancer treatment, the symptoms and treatment.
  • Recommendations for cancer screening for disease recurrence or a new cancer.
  • Psychosocial effects, including relationships and sexuality.
  • Planning follow-up visits.

A survivorship care plan encourages patients to review the information with their health care team and become active participants in their follow-up care.

Penn also offers colon cancer patients a number of support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

Oncology Navigation Specialists

Every step of cancer treatment – from cancer diagnosis, to surgery and treatment to forming a survivorship plan – comes with different needs and issues that should be addressed.

Oncology Navigation Specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center are available to make a patient’s experience as seamless as possible. As experts in navigating complex health care situations, patient support specialists serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source for advice, support and direction for patients and families. They can help in a variety of ways including; provide emotional support, identify resources, and ensure access to information, support services, educational programs and community resources.

Learn more about patient navigation specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Survivorship Programs at Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine’s Living Well After Cancer™ Program is a nationally recognized program that focuses on issues facing cancer survivors. In 2007, the Abramson Cancer Center was designated a LIVESTRONG ™ Survivorship Center of Excellence Network.  The Abramson Cancer Center is only one of eight LIVESTRONG centers in the United States, and is the only LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence in the Philadelphia region. The program focuses on survivorship, a distinct phase of care.

Prescription for Living: The Cancer Survivorship Program at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, provides patients with a summary of important information about specific cancer diagnoses and treatments, as well as follow-up information and steps to take towards recovery, supportive care and education to help patients adjust to their lives as cancer survivors.

Continued Support

Penn offers cancer patients support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

The Abramson Cancer Center and Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital at Pennsylvania Hospital have materials and host a wide range of activities that provide education and support to address key areas of concern including survivorship for cancer patients and their loved ones.

Focus On: Gastrointestinal Cancers is a day-long conference that addresses issues for patients with colon cancer, as well as their loved ones.


Kristi Elder

Kristi Elder lived cancer free for 12 years after treatments in her mid-20s for a rare cancer. While coming to Penn for routine follow-up, a staff member recognized that Kristi could benefit from our survivorship program. In Kristi's first visit with o

Stand Up to Cancer

Peter O'Dwyer, MD, professor of Hematology-Oncology and program director of Development Therapeutics in the Abramson Cancer Center, was interviewed on NBC10's 10! Show about Penn's work as part of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team... Read more

Clinical Trials

Colorectal Cancer Trials

Phase III Randomized Trial of the Role of Whole Brain Radiation Therapy in Addition to Radiosurgery... more