Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Treatment for colorectal cancer is based on whether the cancer has spread to tissue beyond the colon or rectum. A person with colorectal cancer may undergo surgery to remove a small tumor, while chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be used to treat tumors that have spread beyond the colon or rectum. Chemotherapy drugs kill rapidly growing cancer cells. Radiation therapy uses x-ray beams to destroy cancer cells. A course of radiation therapy and chemotherapy may require weeks or months.

A person with a large colorectal cancer tumor may require surgery to remove the rectum or a portion of the colon. In this case, the surgeon connects the end of the intestine to the abdominal wall, forming a colostomy. Stool passes through the colostomy, and is collected in a bag that is attached to the abdomen.

Treatment for colorectal cancer includes:

Colorectal Cancer Chemotherapy

Colorectal Cancer Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Is surgery an option for me?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • Do I need a special exercise program?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • Will my children have this condition?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Colorectal Cancer Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat colorectal cancer:

Colorectal Cancer Stage 0

Treatment of Stage 0 Colon Cancer
Treatment of stage 0 (carcinoma in situ) may include the following types of surgery:

  • Polypectomy for colon cancer
    • Removal of the tumor using a colonoscope
  • Resection and re-anastomosis for colon cancer
    • Removing the piece of colon that contains the tumor and reconnecting the two ends of the colon.

Colorectal Cancer Stage 1

Treatment of Stage 1 Colon Cancer
Treatment of stage 1 colon cancer usually involves:

  • Resection and re-anastomosis for colon cancer:
    • Removing the piece of colon that contains the tumor and reconnecting the two ends of the colon.

Colorectal Cancer Stage 2

Treatment of Stage 2 Colon Cancer
Treatment of stage 2 colon cancer may include the following:

Colorectal Cancer Stage 3

Treatment of Stage 3 Colon Cancer
Treatment of stage 3 colon cancer may include the following:

Colorectal Cancer Stage 4

Treatment of Stage 4 Colon Cancer
Treatment of stage 4 and recurrent colon cancer may include the following:

  • Resection and re-anastomosis for colon cancer:
    • Removing the piece of colon that contains the tumor and reconnecting the two ends of the colon.
  • Surgery to remove parts of other organs, such as the liver, lungs, and ovaries, where the cancer has spread.
  • Chemotherapy for colorectal cancer
  • Radiation therapy for colorectal cancer

Therapy for colon cancer that has spread to the liver include:
  • Radiofrequency ablation for cancer in the liver:
    • Destroying cancer cells with energy
  • Cryosurgery for cancer in the liver:
    • Destroying cancer cells by freezing

Colorectal Cancer Surgery

Surgical procedures for colorectal cancer include:

  • Partial colectomy for colon cancer
  • Total colectomy with colostomy for colon cancer
  • Laparoscopic colectomy for colon cancer

Some people who require removal of large parts of the colon will require a colostomy. This allows stool to flow into a bag on the abdominal wall. Sometimes the colostomies are temporary, while others are permanent.

Less than 1% of patients with colon cancer require a colostomy.

Continue to Colorectal Cancer Home Care

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Colorectal Cancer References
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  5. Lacy A. Colon cancer: laparoscopic resection. Ann Oncol. 2005;16 Suppl 2:ii88-92. [15958483]
  6. Lao CD, Brenner DE. Strategies for prevention of colorectal cancer: pharmaceutical and nutritional interventions. Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2004 Oct;5(5):417-26. [15341679]
  7. Mendenhall WM, Amos EH, Rout WR, Zlotecki RA, Hochwald SN, Cance WG. Adjuvant postoperative radiotherapy for colon carcinoma. Cancer. 2004 Sep 15;101(6):1338-44. [15316945]
  8. Solum AM, Riffenburgh RH, Johnstone PA. Survival of patients with untreated rectal cancer. J Surg Oncol. 2004 Sep 15;87(4):157-61. [15334629]
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