Thumbnail image of: Colostomy: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Digestive System: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Ileostomy: Illustration

Cancer of the Colon Discharge Information

What is cancer of the colon?

Cancer of the colon is an abnormal growth of cells that form tumors in a section of the large intestine called the colon. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still colon cancer, and is called metastatic colon cancer.

There are different types and stages of colon cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started and where it has spread. Knowing your type and stage of colon cancer helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat colon cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a localized cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.

The combination of obesity, a diet high in fat and low in fiber, and a lack of exercise increase your risk for colon cancer. You may also have a higher risk for developing colon cancer if you or a family member has had colon cancer or pre-cancerous polyps, you have inflammatory bowel disease, or you have had certain other kinds of cancer. Colon cancer usually occurs after age 50, but it can happen at any age.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

Colon cancer can often be cured, depending how large it was when you were diagnosed and whether the cancer has spread. How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible or manage other treatments you may need.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you are to take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent anemia, which means you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body. Anemia may be caused by your cancer, your treatment, or other problems.
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Help your immune system fight cancer
  • If you have had surgery without a colostomy, to care for your surgical wound:
    • Keep your surgical wound clean.
    • If you are told to change the dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
  • If you have had a colostomy:
    • A part of your intestine will be connected to an opening in your abdomen, called a stoma. Your bowel movements will empty through the stoma and collect in a disposable bag (pouch) outside your body.
    • You will need to learn to care for your colostomy. The stoma must be kept clean and pouches must be emptied regularly so that they do not become too heavy and leak. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for your type of pouch.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • You may need other treatments for your cancer after you leave the hospital. Treatments may include:
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells. Different types of chemotherapy may be given in the hospital, outpatient clinic, or at home.
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment may be done in the hospital or and outpatient clinic.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need, which may be done to look for signs that the cancer has returned or has spread. Testing may include:
    • Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy: A test in which a long, thin, flexible tube and tiny camera is put into the rectum and up into the colon to look for polyps. A biopsy may be taken to help make a diagnosis. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue for testing.
    • Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer.
    • Chest X-ray: Pictures of the inside of your chest to check for cancer.
    • Computed tomography (CT) Scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin sections of colon and other areas where the cancer may have spread.
    • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin sections of the colon and other areas where the cancer may have spread
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or fears you have.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Bowel movement with a large amount of bright red blood
  • Severe bleeding from your colostomy site

Do not drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Bloating or pain in your belly
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, severe constipation, or other intestinal problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blood in your bowel movements
  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
    • The area around the wound is getting more red or painful
    • The wound area gets very warm to touch
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
    • You have a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38.1 degrees C) or higher
    • You have chills or muscle aches

For more information:

Contact national and local organizations such as:

  • American Cancer Society, Inc.
    Phone: 1-800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345)
    Web site:
  • National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service
    Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237)
    Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-10-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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