Which Specialists Treat Colorectal Cancer?

You’ll probably have several doctors for your colorectal cancer treatments.

With the guidance of your main doctor, your team may include these specialists:

  • A medical oncologist, who will oversee your medical treatment and prescribe chemotherapy
  • A radiation oncologist, who will treat you with radiation
  • A colorectal surgeon, a general surgeon, or a surgical oncologist, who will do your surgery

How Do I Find Them?

Your regular doctor should be able to recommend colorectal cancer specialists in your area. You could also check the websites of local hospitals or national organizations, like the American College of Surgeons or the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

If you live in an area with a specialized cancer treatment center, you might want to start there.

How Do I Build My Cancer Care Team?

Look for experts. Depending on where you live, finding a specialist in colorectal cancer may not be easy. But it's always a good idea to try.

Find doctors you like, trust, and who listen to you. You want to have a doctor that you feel comfortable working with.

Ask about your doctor’s background and experience. How often do they treat people with colorectal cancer? If you need surgery, how many times has the surgeon done the procedure you need? And how often? Where did your doctor study? Did they do any fellowships, and are they board-certified?

Find team members who can work well together. Most cancer treatments complement each other. For instance, you might have chemotherapy and radiation before surgery, and more chemotherapy afterward. This is especially true for rectal cancer. So the experts on your team -- your oncologist, your radiologist, and your surgeon -- all need to work together to figure out the best strategy.

What Other Specialists Might Help?

You might also work with other health care professionals at the hospital, including nurses, pathologists, and other specialists.

You could check in with a dietitian to make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need during treatment.

If you find that you have strong emotions about the cancer or its treatment that are hard to handle, you might also want to see a therapist such as a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Some people in your family might also find it helpful to talk to a therapist, if they feel overwhelmed.

Continued

Should I Join a Clinical Trial?

Before new colorectal cancer treatments get approved, researchers test them in clinical trials. If you're interested, ask your doctor to help you find one that’s looking for patients like you.

Ask about what’s involved, and what the risks and benefits are. For instance, you’ll want to know how long the trial is, what you’ll need to do, and what the side effects might be. Then you can decide if you want to join in.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on September 06, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Cancer Society.

Damian Augustyn, MD, chief of gastroenterology, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco.

Anthony Back, MD, affiliate member of the clinical research division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; associate professor, University of Washington.

Paulo M. Hoff, MD, associate professor, GI medical oncology, MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas; deputy chairman, GI medical oncology.

Leonard Saltz, MD, attending physician and leader of the colorectal disease management team, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Schrag, D., New England Journal of Medicine, July 22, 2004.

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