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Rectal Cancer Surgery

Surgery is the most common form of treatment for rectal cancer. There are three general types: local excision, resection, and resection with colostomy. Some people may also receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. While side effects vary, most people experience pain in the first few days after surgery for rectal cancer.

Surgery for Rectal Cancer: An Introduction

Surgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is the most common rectal cancer treatment for all stages of the disease. The extent of surgery will depend on the location and size of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and on the person's general health.
(Click Rectal Cancer Stages for more information.)

Rectal Cancer Surgery to Remove the Tumor

A doctor may remove the cancer using one of the following types of surgery:
  • Local excision
  • Resection
  • Resection and colostomy.
Local Excision Surgery
If the rectal cancer is found at a very early stage, the doctor may remove it without cutting into the abdomen (stomach). If the cancer is found in a polyp (a growth that protrudes from the rectal mucous membrane), the operation is called a polypectomy.
Resection Surgery
If the cancer is larger, the doctor will perform a resection of the rectum (removing the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it). The doctor will then perform an anastomosis (sewing the healthy parts of the rectum together, sewing the remaining rectum to the colon, or sewing the colon to the anus). The lymph nodes near the rectum will also be removed and examined under a microscope to see if they contain cancer.
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Treatment for Rectal Cancer

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