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What is the Most Common Treatment of Colorectal Cancer?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The primary treatment for colorectal cancer is surgery to remove the cancer. Additional treatment options depend on the staging of the patient's cancer, determined by examining biopsy samples from the site of the cancer and the surrounding area. The surgery takes place in a hospital or surgical clinic and recovery times vary. More invasive surgeries have a longer recovery time and may leave a patient using a colostomy bag temporarily or permanently. Less invasive surgeries may be outpatient procedures, allowing the patient to leave after she or he recovers from the anesthesia.

In suspected cases of colorectal cancer, the first step is diagnosis to confirm the cancer and learn more about the staging. Medical imaging studies of the colon are used to collect information. In endoscopic studies, cameras are inserted to image the inside of the bowels. If polpys are identified during endoscopy, a doctor will remove them for biopsy. Sometimes, cancer is caught early enough that the removal of the polyps is sufficient, with follow-up exams to check for recurrence of the cancer.

In other cases, treatment of colorectal cancer requires more extensive measures. Surgical resection of the tumor may be recommended, and sometimes it is necessary to cut out a section of bowel and stitch the bowel back together. Sometimes surgery can be conducted laparoscopically, using small incisions in the abdomen to access the bowel. In other cases, open surgery must be performed for treatment of colorectal cancer.

During surgical procedures, samples of neighboring lymph nodes can be taken to learn whether or not the cancer is spreading. If it is, additional treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies with monoclonal antibodies may be recommended. Treatment of colorectal cancer can involve the use of two or more treatments simultaneously or sequentially, depending on the specifics of a patient's case. A care team that mixes specialists may be used to provide complete treatment to the patient and to minimize redundant procedures.

After treatment of colorectal cancer is completed, a patient usually needs to be monitored. There is a risk that the cancer will recur, making it important to identify early signs of new growths in the bowel. Patients can also experience complications related to the treatment, such as malnutrition as a result of a bowel resection. A special diet may be required and a doctor may recommend other steps to help patients reduce the risk of a recurrence.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
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