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. Staging is a way for your doctor to tell how far, if at all,
your cancer has spread.
Surgery is almost
always used to remove
colorectal cancer. Sometimes a simple operation can be done during a colonoscopy or
sigmoidoscopy to remove small polyps and a small amount of tissue around
them. But in most cases, a major operation is needed to remove the cancer and part of the
colon or rectum around it. If cancer has spread to
another part of your body, such as the liver, you may need more far-reaching
medicines to destroy cancer cells
throughout the body. Several medicines are often used together.
Radiation therapy uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells.
This is used for some types of cancer in the rectum. Radiation therapy
is often combined with surgery or chemotherapy. To learn more, see Other Treatment.
Cancers that have not spread beyond the colon or rectum may
need only surgery. If the cancer has spread, you may need
chemotherapy, or both.
Side effects of treatment
Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can have serious side effects. But your medical team will help you manage the side effects of your treatment. This may include medicines for pain after surgery or medicines to control nausea and vomiting if you have chemotherapy.
Talk with your doctor and medical team about your side effects. Some side effects, such as pain or tingling in your hands or feet that gets worse (peripheral neuropathy), may be a sign that your medicines need to be changed.
For tips on how to manage side effects at home, see Home Treatment.
After you have had colorectal
cancer, your chances of having it again go up. It's important to keep seeing your doctor and be tested regularly to help find any returning cancer or
new polyps early. After your treatment, you will
need regular checkups by a
radiation oncologist, or
surgeon, depending on your case.
When cancer comes back or spreads
Colorectal cancer comes back in about half of people who have surgery
to remove the cancer.5 The cancer may be more likely
to come back after surgery if it was not found in an early stage. Cancer that has spread or comes back is harder to treat, but sometimes treatments are successful. For more information, see
Colorectal Cancer, Metastatic and Recurrent.
Support and resources
Finding out that you have cancer can change your life. You may feel like your world has turned upside down and you have lost all control. Talking with family, friends, or a counselor can really help. Ask your doctor about support groups. Or call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org.
To learn more about colon and rectal cancer, go to the website of the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/colon-and-rectal.