medicines-given either as pills or through a needle-to destroy cancer cells
throughout the body. Several medicines are often used together. Research studies continue to look for the best combinations of medicines. Your doctor will recommend treatment based on the type and stage of cancer that you have.
Radiation therapy, which uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells,
is standard treatment for some types of cancer in the rectum. Radiation therapy
is often combined with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation may be given from a machine outside the body that targets the cancer (external radiation). Or it may be given inside the body, with radiation sealed in seeds or wires (internal radiation).
Compared to surgery alone,
radiation therapy given before surgery for rectal cancer may reduce the risk
that the cancer will return and may help you live longer.4
Side effects of treatment
The side effects of treatment for colorectal cancer will depend on the type of treatment you have and your age and overall health. The side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation may be mild enough that you can do things at home to manage them. See the Home Treatment section of this topic for more
Some of the treatment side effects can be avoided. For example, your doctor may prescribe
medicines to control nausea and vomiting caused by
chemotherapy. Other problems may be more serious, such as pain or tingling in your hands or feet that gets worse (peripheral neuropathy). These problems may be a sign that your medicines need to be changed. Be sure to talk to your doctor about all the side effects that you have.
For more information about specific treatments, see
the following topics:
After your treatment, you will
need regular checkups by a
radiation oncologist, or
surgeon, depending on your case. During your follow-up
visits you may have one or more of these tests:
- Physical exams. How often you have
these depends on your general health and the type of colorectal cancer you
have. In general, you will see your doctor several times a year for 3 to 5
years and then return to once-a-year checkups.
- Colonoscopy, to inspect the inner surface of your
colon and rectum for new problems
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and other blood tests, to check the success of your
treatment and find out whether the cancer has returned
- CT scan or
MRI, to see if the cancer has spread to other
Treatment if the condition gets worse
Colorectal cancer comes back after surgery in about half of people who have surgery
to remove the cancer.4 The cancer may be more likely
to come back after surgery if it was not discovered in an early stage. Cancer
that has spread or comes back is harder to treat. A cure is less likely, but
treatment can help you feel better and live longer. For more information, see
Colorectal Cancer, Metastatic and Recurrent.
What To Think About