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Rectal Cancer

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by LaRusso L

(Cancer of the Rectum)



Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following options:


Surgery is the main treatment for rectal cancer. There are several options for surgery depending on the location of the cancer and how much it has spread:
  • Polypectomy and local excision—Early stage removal of the cancer.
  • Local transanal resection—Removal of the cancer with a margin of surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM)—Removal of the cancer in the rectal wall with surrounding healthy tissue. The hole in the wall is sewn back together.
  • Low anterior resection—Removal of the cancer, surrounding healthy tissue, and lymph nodes for cancers high in the rectum, closer to the colon.
  • Proctectomy—Removal of the rectum. This surgery also involves attaching the end of the colon to the anal canal in order to preserve bowel function.
  • Abdominoperineal resection—Removal of rectum, anal canal, and surrounding tissue.
  • Pelvic exenteration—Removal of rectum, anal canal, and nearby organs with cancer, such as the prostate, uterus, or bladder.
Some surgeries may require temporary or permanent colostomies. A colostomy is a surgical opening through the wall of the abdomen into the colon. This is used as a path for waste material to leave the body. After a colostomy, you will wear a special bag to collect body waste. If the bladder is removed, you will also need a urostomy. A urostomy is an opening in the abdominal wall that allows for the passage of urine.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It is directed at the site of the tumor from a source outside the body. This therapy is aimed at the immediate area of the cancer. It is used alone or with chemotherapy.


This therapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, and via a catheter. Drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing cancer cells. They can also kill healthy cells. This therapy is systemic, meaning it affects your entire body.


Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy uses medications to target and kill cancer cells, while sparing healthy tissue. They are currently used to treat advanced cancers. Targeted therapy is less harmful to healthy tissue, which reduces side effects. It may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy.
Other Medications
Some medications can be used as part of a treatment plan. Other medications may help to either prevent or reduce side effects of treatments, or to manage certain side effects if they occur. These include:
  • Corticosteroids
  • Blood stem cell support medications
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
  • Opioids
Tell your doctor when you notice a new symptom, and ask if any of these medications are right for you.


American Cancer Society




Canadian Cancer Society

Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada



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General information about rectal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated May 16, 2013. Accessed May 24, 2013.

Rex DK, Johnson DA, et al. American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for colorectal cancer screening 2009. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104(3):739-750.

11/19/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Kirkegaard H, Johnsen NF, et al. Association of adherence to lifestyle recommendations and risk of colorectal cancer: a prospective Danish cohort study. BMJ. 2010;341:c5504.

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