Cancer Support Group

Wednesday, Apr 14th

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Rectal Cancer Treatment

There are treatments for all patients with cancer of the rectum. Four kinds of treatments are available:
  • Surgery (taking out the cancer).
  • Radiation therapy (using high–dose X–rays or other high–energy rays to kill cancer cells).
  • Chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells).
  • Biological therapy (using materials made by the body or in the laboratory to kill cancer cells).
Surgery for cancer of the Rectum
Surgery is the most common treatment of all stages of cancer of the rectum. A doctor may take out the cancer from the rectum using one of the following:
If cancer is found at a very early stage, the doctor may take out the cancer without cutting into the abdomen. Instead, the doctor may put a tube into the rectum and cut the cancer out. This is called a Local Excision. Sometimes, the doctor may take out the cancer using high–energy electricity. This is called Electro–Fulguration.

If the cancer is larger, the doctor will take out the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it. The healthy parts of the rectum are then sewn together (Anastomosis). If only a small amount of tissue is removed, this is called a Wedge Resection. If a larger amount of tissue is removed, this is called a Bowel Re–section. The doctor will also take out the lymph nodes near the rectum and look at them under the microscope to see if they contain cancer. If the doctor is not able to sew the rectum back together, he or she will make an opening (Stoma) on the outside of the body for waste to pass out of the body. This is called a Colostomy. Sometimes, the colostomy is only needed until the colon has healed, and then it can be reversed. However, the doctor may have to take out the entire rectum and make the colostomy permanent.

A patient, who has had a colostomy, will need to wear a special bag to collect body wastes. This special bag, which sticks to the skin around the stoma with a special glue, can be thrown away after it is used. This bag does not show under clothing, and most people take care of these bags themselves.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is the use of X–rays or other high–energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (External Radiation Therapy) or from putting materials that contain radiation through thin plastic tubes (Internal Radiation Therapy) in the intestine area. Radiation can be used alone or in addition to surgery and/or Chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by inserting a needle into a vein. A patient may be given Chemotherapy through a tube that will be left in the vein while a small pump provides constant treatment over a period of weeks.

Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the rectum. If cancer has spread to the liver, a patient may be given Chemotherapy directly into the artery going to the liver. Chemotherapy or other drugs may be given with radiation therapy to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation (Radiosensitizers).

If the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the operation, a patient may be given Chemotherapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Chemotherapy given after an operation to a person who has no cancer cells that can be seen is called Adjuvant Chemotherapy.

Biological Therapy
Biological therapy tries to get the body to fight cancer. It uses materials made by the body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against disease. Biological therapy is sometimes called Biological Response Modifier (BRM) Therapy.


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