Mayo Clinic's approach to rectal cancer care

Your Mayo Clinic care team

Improving treatment options for rectal cancer


David W. Larson, M.D., M.B.A., Colon and Rectal Surgery, Mayo Clinic: It's very rare that I see a patient who has a truly unresectable tumor. The most common experience I have with patients is that they come here scared because they don't know what the plan is.

Chris L. Hallemeier, M.D., Radiation Oncology, Mayo Clinic: There are some patients that are told locally that surgery is not an option. And for some of those patients, with a multidisciplinary effort, surgery for potential cure may be an option.

Zhaohui Jin, M.D., Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic: For rectal cancer patients, there is no single treatment plan that fits everyone. And we have to individualize the treatment plan based on the clinical presentation, the image finding, the disease stage, and more important, the patient preference.

Dr. Larson: It's really unmatched across the United States to have that kind of itinerary, where you can see your radiation oncologist and your surgeon and your medical oncologist all on a singular day.

Dr. Hallemeier: At our multidisciplinary rectal cancer clinic, each of our specialists have extensive experience in treating rectal cancer. We review patients' information ahead of time.

Dr. Larson: Our medical oncology colleagues, radiation oncology, surgeons, all review the case that very day and then collectively see the patient, providing them a plan.

Dr. Jin: Treating rectal cancer has been evolving constantly over the years, and we know that changing the chemo treatment backbone, using the new radiation modality, and the newer novel surgical technology, all help improve treating this disease more successfully.

Dr. Larson: Rectal cancer is a very complex operation for most patients, and we have one of the largest rectal cancer practices in the world, and we're really leaders in minimally invasive surgery and robotics, leading many first-in-human trials, which is really practice leading from the surgical point of view. It's proven to result in shorter hospital stays for patients and lower complication rates.

Dr. Hallemeier: And we're using interoperative radiation treatment as an additional tool to help make unresectable tumors resectable. It allows us to keep healthy organs outside of the area that we're treating. The colorectal surgeons in collaboration with urologic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, gynecologic surgeons, can perform complex surgeries that may not be possible at other institutions.

Dr. Larson: It truly is a union of forces. And we collectively create unique opportunities for every patient, tailoring it to just what they need to both cure and survive their cancers.


At Mayo Clinic, specialists in medical oncology, colon and rectal surgery, and radiation oncology collaborate to create a comprehensive care plan that considers all of your needs. These experts work closely with other specialists, including pharmacists, nurses, educators and dietitians, to deliver high-quality care in a supportive environment.

Your doctors 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 decades, 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 typical 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).Mayo Clinic radiation oncologists 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 recurrent rectal cancers.

  • Minimally invasive surgery. During minimally invasive (laparoscopic) rectal cancer surgery, several small incisions are made in your abdomen, rather than one large incision. Special tools and a camera are inserted through the small incisions to access and remove the cancer.

    Colorectal surgeons at Mayo Clinic were among the earliest adopters of minimally invasive surgery procedures for cancers of the rectum and colon.

  • Robotic surgery. During robotic surgery, the surgeon sits at a console and uses controls to guide high-tech surgical tools. Robotic surgery allows the surgeon to work more efficiently in small spaces and gives the surgeon an enhanced view of the area where the operation is taking place.

    Mayo Clinic surgeons are highly skilled and experienced in performing robotic surgery. At Mayo Clinic, the use of robotics has produced excellent outcomes for people with colorectal cancer.

  • Proton beam therapy. One of the newest radiation therapies available, proton beam therapy 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.

The Mayo Clinic experience and patient stories

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care like they've never experienced. See the stories of satisfied Mayo Clinic patients.

Expertise and rankings

Mayo Clinic doctors are widely respected for their expertise and experience in caring for people with rectal cancer. When you seek care at Mayo Clinic, you can expect:

  • Personalized care. Experts in medical oncology work closely with specialists in colon and rectal surgery and radiation oncology to be sure all of your needs are considered when creating your customized treatment plan. Other experts are included as needed.
  • Experience you can trust. Each year, Mayo Clinic doctors care for hundreds of people with rectal cancer.
  • Nationally recognized expertise. Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center meets the strict standards for a U.S. National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center. These standards recognize scientific excellence and a multispecialty approach focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, are ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report.

Locations, travel and lodging

Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

For more information on visiting Mayo Clinic, choose your location below:

Costs and insurance

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Learn more about appointments at Mayo Clinic.

Please contact your insurance company to verify medical coverage and to obtain any needed authorization prior to your visit. Often, your insurer's customer service number is printed on the back of your insurance card.

More information about billing and insurance:

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May 17, 2024

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