What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer starts in the lower end of the digestive system, in either the colon (large intestine) or rectum. Most colorectal cancer starts as a polyp or growth in the colon lining. Polyps can become cancerous, so it’s important to have a doctor remove them if they’re found during a colonoscopy.
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
Colorectal cancer is highly treatable, especially if detected early. That’s why screenings are so important. Advances in colon cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment have improved the quality of life and lifespan of people with colorectal cancer.
Ask your primary care doctor when you should start colorectal screenings. You may need to begin getting colonoscopies at age 45 or earlier if you have:
- Personal history of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Genetic condition that increases your risk
You’ll receive timely, accurate test results thanks to our advanced technology and best-practice techniques.
Cancer Care Team
After a cancer diagnosis, trust your colorectal cancer team for complete care. Different types of doctors work together to make the best recommendation for your personalized care plan.
A warm, compassionate nurse navigator will explain your diagnosis and help you cope. Your navigator will guide you and your family through every step of your cancer journey. She’ll help you communicate with other healthcare professionals and access all the services you need.
At your first appointment with a cancer specialist, expect a physical exam and an in-depth discussion about your treatment options. Your options depend on your cancer type and stage (how far it’s spread). Ask as many questions as you need to make an informed decision about next steps.
Surgery is the most common type of colorectal cancer treatment, particularly when it’s early stage. Surgery affects only the part of your body with cancer. But if the cancer spreads, you may need other treatments in addition to surgery.
- Polypectomy – Removes lumps in the large intestine during a colonoscopy
- Local excision/resection – Removes cancerous cells and tissues inside the rectum
- Transanal excision (TAE) – Removes cancer cells without making an incision in your abdomen
- Colostomy/ileostomy – Creates an opening in the skin for stool to pass into a pouch instead of through the anus
- Colectomy – Removes all or part of the colon (large intestine)
- Hemicolectomy – Removes the right or left part of the colon
- Low anterior resection (LAR) – Removes part of the rectum and then attaches the colon to the remaining part so you can have normal bowel movements
- Abdominoperineal resection – Removes the anus and rectum with a permanent colostomy to treat cancers very low in the rectum
- Pelvic exenteration – Removes the rectum and nearby organs where cancer has spread, such as the prostate, uterus or bladder
Preparing for Surgery
Get ready for your surgery with bowel prep as instructed by your doctor. Your prep will depend on the type of surgery you'll have. General prep includes:
- Avoiding solid foods for at least 24 hours before surgery
- Not eating or drinking after midnight on the day of your operation
- Taking all medications as prescribed
- Drinking lots of clear liquids
- Arranging for transportation home after surgery
Recovering After Surgery
After surgery, listen to your body and talk to your doctor if you have concerns. We’ll explain how to care for yourself as you recover.
You may have a short hospital stay after surgery. When you go home, we recommend following these recovery strategies:
- Get moving as soon as you feel up to it. You should be able to return to normal daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs and showering. Check with a physician before you start driving.
- Avoid anything that causes a lot of pain or is very strenuous, such as intense exercise or lifting more than 20 pounds.
- Your doctor may recommend working with a physical or occupational therapist to help you regain certain abilities.
- Avoid baths, swimming pools and hot tubs until your incisions have fully healed and your doctor gives you permission.
- Eat small meals and low-fiber food. Avoid raw fruits and veggies the first couple of weeks after surgery. During follow-up visits, your care team will help decide when you can return to a regular diet. We may also refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist.
- Expect a bowel movement within a few days after surgery. You may have temporary bloating, loose stools or feelings of fullness.
- Take your medications as prescribed.
Surgery Side Effects
You may experience side effects after surgery, depending on the type and length of surgery and your overall health. Call your doctor if you have questions or concerns or experience:
- No bowel movement within a few days after surgery
- Persistent bleeding
- Pus-like drainage that may be discolored or foul-smelling from the surgical site
- Warmth and redness around your surgical site or incision
- Worsening nausea, vomiting, bloating, cramps, hiccups, or other signs of digestive upset
Medication & Radiation Treatments
To treat cancer that spreads to other areas of your body, your doctor may order:
- Radiation therapy – Kills cancer cells in a localized area
- Chemotherapy – Uses strong drugs to kill cancer cells anywhere in your body
- Targeted therapy – Uses medications tailored to a specific type of tumor
Learn about the clinical trials you may have access to as an AnMed patient.
Support for You & Your Family
Look for supportive services at AnMed to help you and your family cope with cancer's physical, emotional and financial challenges. Resources, services and classes and support groups are available to make treatment less stressful.