Treatment strategies depend on the stage of colorectal cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preferences.
Rectal cancer is considered to be a curable disease if it is diagnosed in an early stage. If the cancer is found in the latter stages, then treatment becomes more difficult.
Common Treatment Options
The most common treatment options for rectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
Surgery is divided into five different categories: curative, palliative, bypass, fecal diversion, and open-or-close.
- If the tumor is localized (confined to the rectum), then curative surgery will be used. Curative surgery includes the removal of polyps that might be found during a colonoscopy, or the removal of a piece of the colon that contains the cancer.
- Palliative surgery is used when there are multiple metastases of the tumor, and a resection of the tumor is offered to prevent further morbidity.
- If the tumor has invaded into other structures throughout the body, excision will be extremely difficult to perform. Because of this, the surgeon may elect to bypass the tumor and perform a proximal fecal diversion.
- Fecal diversion onvolves the creation of a stoma. A stoma is an opening that connects a portion of the body cavity to the outside environment.
- The term “open-and-close” identifies a surgical procedure in which a surgeon discovers that a cancer is inoperable. Essentially, this is a failed surgical attempt to resect a tumor. This type of surgery represents the worst-case scenario rectal cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy is used to control metastases (spread) and to shrink or slow the growth of the tumor. Chemotherapy can be applied once the surgery is complete, before the surgery takes place, or as the primary treatment modality.
Radiation therapy utilizes beams of ionizing radiation to kill cancer cells. This treatment modality is commonly used to help minimize the symptoms associated with rectal cancer.
OTHER TREATMENT OPTIONS
Another viable option to treat rectal cancer is immunotherapy, which is still being investigated as a treatment option. This treatment option is designed to involve the patient’s own immune system in the treatment of his or her cancer.