Mayo Clinic's approach to rectal cancer care

Your Mayo Clinic care team

At Mayo Clinic, specialists in medical oncology, colon and rectal surgery, and radiation oncology collaborate to create a comprehensive care plan that considers you as a whole person. These experts work closely with other 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 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 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). 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 cases of recurrent rectal cancer.

  • 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.

  • 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 multiple tumors of different types at once. By combining complex surgery and intraoperative radiation therapy, a cure is sometimes possible for even the most aggressive cancers.
  • 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.

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 more than 2,700 people with cancers of the anus, anal canal and rectum.
  • Nationally recognized expertise. Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center meets the strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognize scientific excellence and a multispecialty approach focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

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