Mayo Clinic's approach to rectal cancer care

Your Mayo Clinic care team

Specialists in medical oncology, colon and rectal surgery, and radiation oncology collaborate in planning and delivering your care. These experts work closely with other patient-care specialists, including pharmacists, nurses, educators and dietitians, to deliver high-quality care in a supportive environment.

Your doctors will discuss all of your treatment options and guide you in choosing the approach that best suits your needs and goals. Your care team is prepared with the knowledge and resources to provide you with exactly the care you need.

Advanced diagnosis and treatment

The colon and rectal surgeons at Mayo Clinic draw on decades of cumulative experience in a high-volume practice. For 35 years, Mayo Clinic has been a global leader in the multidisciplinary treatment of advanced rectal cancer.

Mayo Clinic colorectal surgeons specialize in removal (resection) of complex tumors affecting multiple organs and structures in the abdomen and pelvis. The colorectal surgery practice at Mayo Clinic has particular expertise in procedures that help avoid the need for a colostomy and that preserve the nearby nerves that are essential for normal bowel, bladder and sexual function.

A full range of technologically advanced rectal cancer treatments is available at Mayo Clinic. Examples include:

  • Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). Radiation oncologists at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, introduced and refined IORT over the last few decades. A radiation oncologist administers IORT during rectal cancer surgery, after the surgical team has resected the primary tumor. The treatment consists of a single, high dose of radiation focused directly on the original tumor site before the abdomen is closed. The tight focus of the radiation beam, along with careful placement of radiation shields, protects nearby organs from radiation damage.

    The main role of the treatment is to reduce the chance of cancer recurrence when the surgeon is unable to remove the optimal amount of healthy tissue around the tumor. IORT is used to treat advanced rectal cancer, as well as some cases of recurrent rectal cancer.

  • Minimally invasive surgery. During minimally invasive (laparoscopic) rectal cancer surgery, several small incisions are made in your abdomen. Special tools and a camera are inserted through the incisions and allow the surgeon to remove the rectal cancer without making one large incision. Colorectal surgeons at Mayo Clinic were among the earliest adopters of laparoscopic procedures for cancers of the rectum and colon. Today, volumes of laparoscopic procedures for colon and rectal cancer at Mayo Clinic are among the highest in the world.
  • Robotic surgery. During robotic surgery, the surgeon sits at a console and uses controls to guide high-tech surgical tools. Robotic surgery has the advantage of allowing the surgeon to work more easily in small spaces and gives the surgeon an enhanced view of the area where the operation is taking place. Mayo Clinic's robotic center for colorectal surgery is among the largest in the world. At Mayo Clinic, the use of robotics has produced excellent outcomes in surgery for complex colorectal tumors involving multiple organs and structures in the pelvis.
  • Multivisceral resection and intraoperative radiation therapy. At Mayo Clinic, multiple surgeons and radiation oncologists can work as an operating-room team with the combined capability to remove tumors of different types in a single procedure. By combining complex surgery and intraoperative radiation therapy, cure is sometimes possible for even the most aggressive cancers.
  • Proton beam therapy. One of the newest radiation therapies available at Mayo Clinic in the Rochester and Phoenix locations, uses a highly targeted precision beam to treat cancers located close to critical organs and body structures. Mayo Clinic's Proton beam therapy program features intensity-modulated proton beam therapy with pencil beam scanning, which allows radiation oncologists to destroy cancer while sparing healthy tissue.

Nationally recognized expertise

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic's Division of Colorectal Surgery has been accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer since 1970. The Division of Radiation Oncology at Mayo Clinic is accredited by the American College of Radiology.