Cancer Home > Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Surgery is the most common method of treating colorectal cancer. It is a type of local therapy, meaning that it treats the cancer in the colon or rectum and the area close to the tumor.
A small malignant polyp may be removed from the colon or upper rectum with a colonoscope. Some small tumors in the lower rectum can be removed through the anus without a colonoscope.
For a larger cancer, the surgeon makes an incision into the abdomen to remove the tumor and part of the healthy colon or rectum. Some nearby lymph nodes also may be removed. The surgeon checks the rest of the intestine and the liver to see if the cancer has spread.
When a section of the colon or rectum is removed, the surgeon can usually reconnect the healthy parts (this is called an anastomosis). However, sometimes reconnection is not possible.
In this case, the surgeon creates a new path for waste to leave the body. The surgeon makes an opening (a stoma) in the wall of the abdomen, connects the upper end of the intestine to the stoma, and closes the other end. The operation to create the stoma is called a colostomy. A flat bag fits over the stoma to collect waste, and a special adhesive holds it in place.
For most people who have a colostomy, it is temporary. It is needed only until the colon or rectum heals from surgery. After healing takes place, the surgeon reconnects the parts of the intestine and closes the stoma. Some people, especially those with a tumor in the lower rectum, need a permanent colostomy.