The first step in treating
colorectal cancer is usually an operation to remove
the tumor. Sometimes a simple operation can be done during a colonoscopy or
sigmoidoscopy to remove small polyps and a small amount of tissue surrounding
them. But in most cases a major operation, in which the cancer and part of the
colon or rectum around it are removed, is needed. If cancer has spread to
another part of your body, such as the liver, you may need more far-reaching
After the cancer has been examined under a microscope, it
will be staged. Staging is a way for your doctor to tell how far, if at all,
your cancer has spread. It also helps your doctor decide what your treatment
Colonoscopy (koh-luh-NAH-skuh-pee) lets the physician look inside your entire large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine. The procedure is used to diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits. It is also used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum. Colonoscopy enables the physician to see inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, ulcers, bleeding, and muscle spasms.
For the procedure,...
You and your doctor will work
together to decide what your treatment should be. You will consider your own
preferences and your general health, but the
stage of your cancer is the most important tool for
choosing your treatment.
Surgery is almost
always used to remove
colorectal cancer. Your doctor may use one of the following types of surgery:
Resection. If your cancer is larger, your doctor will remove the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue. The healthy ends of the
colon or rectum are then sewn back together. During this operation, your doctor
will also remove some of your lymph nodes for testing.
colostomy. Sometimes it isn't
possible to rejoin the ends of the colon or rectum after the cancer is removed. Your doctor will do a colostomy and make an opening on the
outside of your abdomen where waste can pass through into a colostomy bag. The
colostomy may be temporary until your colon heals. Or it may be permanent if
the entire lower colon or rectum was removed.
Sometimes it is possible to have laparoscopic surgery to remove the cancer. This is surgery where very small incisions are made in the belly. A tiny camera and special instruments are used to remove the cancer. For the best results, it is important to have an experienced surgeon and to have this surgery at a hospital where many of these surgeries are done.3
Even after removing all the cancer that can be found with surgery, your doctor may say you need other treatment. This may be chemotherapy, radiation, or both (chemoradiation).