Treatment for rectal cancer varies, depending on how large the tumor has grown, how deeply it has invaded the wall of the rectum, and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. At Mayo Clinic, a dedicated team of colorectal specialists works together to develop a comprehensive, personal treatment plan for you. Options include:
Jun. 27, 2013
- Surgery. At Mayo Clinic, surgeons perform most colorectal cancer surgeries using minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery. Depending on the location and progression (stage) of your cancer, it may be treated with surgery alone or require a temporary or permanent colostomy — a small opening in your abdomen for eliminating waste. Mayo Clinic colorectal surgeons specialize in procedures that help avoid the need for a colostomy and preserve the nerves that are essential for normal sexual and urinary functioning.
- Robotic surgery. Surgeons at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota increasingly use robotic surgery to treat rectal cancer. The robotic system is particularly helpful in treating cancers located close to the anus. Using robotic surgery, surgeons can often preserve the sphincter muscle as well as normal sexual and urinary function.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy (chemoradiation). When rectal cancer has spread into surrounding tissue or lymph nodes, Mayo Clinic specialists recommend radiation therapy and chemotherapy before surgery to help shrink the tumor, making it easier to perform the delicate surgery that preserves sphincter muscle and vital nerves. You may also receive chemoradiation after surgery, especially if cancer has spread to your lymph nodes. Chemotherapy drugs make cancer cells in the rectum more sensitive to radiation. Advanced technologies such as image-guided radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy target tumors with great precision and reduce the chance of damage to nearby organs and bones.
- Intraoperative radiation therapy. An innovative treatment called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) is used to treat locally advanced or recurrent rectal cancer. IORT is effective for tumors that the surgeon can't completely remove. If you receive IORT, you'll also receive a course of external beam radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy before surgery.
- Lifestyle counseling. To help prevent colon polyps and colorectal cancers, Mayo experts can advise you on lifestyle issues such as improving your food choices, drinking alcohol in moderation (if at all), getting regular exercise and quitting smoking.