Rectal Cancer Treatment
Rectal cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatment types. The type of treatment that you receive may depend on several factors, including the stage of your cancer and your general health. Surgery is the most common treatment for rectal cancer.
A local excision may be used to remove rectal cancer that is found very early. For instance, a polyp may be removed from the rectum without cutting into the abdomen. A local resection is a procedure that is used to remove the cancer and the tissue around it. A local resection usually leaves the anus sphincter intact, and following surgery you will be able to have bowel movements. A resection and colostomy may be necessary if the rectum cannot be sewn back together again. A stoma, opening at the side of the body, is created for waste products to move through, which are collected in a colostomy bag. With a colostomy, you will not be able to have bowel movements as you did before.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. External radiation or internal radiation therapy may be used to treat rectal cancer. External radiation delivers radiation from an external source, a machine. Internal radiation therapy, brachytherapy, involves implanting radioactive seed pellets in or near the cancer. The seeds deliver a slow dose of radiation. Internal radiation methods may also use radioactive wires, needles, or catheters. The type of radiation that you receive depends on the type of cancer that you have.
Chemotherapy uses cancer fighting drugs or combinations of drugs to kill cancer cells. You may receive chemotherapy in the form of pills or they may be injected through a needle. Chemotherapy may be used in combination with radiation therapy or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Even with treatment, some cases of rectal cancer may return. This is termed “recurrent rectal cancer.” Your doctor can explain your risk for rectal cancer and possible treatments if it does recur.
The experience of rectal cancer and cancer treatments can be an emotional process for people with cancer and their loved ones. It is important that you receive support from a positive source. Some people find comfort in their family, friends, counselors, co-workers, and faith. Cancer support groups are another good option. They can be a source of information and support from people who understand what you are experiencing. Ask your doctor for cancer support group locations in your area.
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