Many symptoms associated with rectal cancer could be shrugged off as similar to numerous minor health issues, but if you notice symptoms such as constipation, blood in your stool, or pelvic or rectal pain, don’t hesitate to schedule a checkup, because early diagnosis and treatment are critical to prevent cancer from spreading. The nuances of the treatment of rectal cancer can be more complex than colon cancer, and our surgeons at Suburban Surgical Associates/Suburban Metabolic Institute are well versed in the treatment complexities and the surgical techniques in treating rectal cancer. Please call one of our offices in Berwyn, or La Grange, Illinois, or request an appointment online.
The symptoms associated with rectal cancer include:
Rectal cancers may be picked up by a palpating a mass on a simple digital rectal exam, but to definitively diagnose rectal cancer, a colonoscopy is required.
You might be due for a colonoscopy if you’re over the age of 50 or have any of the symptoms mentioned above.
During the procedure, a colonoscope -- a long, thin, flexible camera -- gives your doctor a magnified view of tissues inside your colon. If abnormal tissue or polyps are present, the polyp is removed and biopsied.
A bowel preparation may be prescribed before either a colonoscopy or a colon resection operation. Cleaning out the colon of fecal matter is critical to visualizing the walls of the colon during a colonoscopy and reducing the risks of infections and leaks after surgery.
Typically, a bowel preparation involves a clear liquid diet for 1-2 days before surgery, a special cleansing medication, and sometimes antibiotics to reduce the bacterial burden in the colon.
Treatment for rectal cancer often requires multimodal therapy, which means you need surgery to remove the cancer cells, in addition to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Your surgeon collaborates with a medical oncologist and radiation oncologist to develop the optimal treatment plan for your tumor.
Surgery to remove rectal cancer, called resection, can be performed several ways:
During this procedure, your doctor removes small, early-stage cancer or precancerous tumors via a small scope inserted through the anal canal that visualizes the inside of the rectum.
Low anterior resection
This refers to surgical resection of the rectum along with distal colon but leaves the anus and sphincter complex intact, allowing the surgeon to reconnect the ends together. While this may require an ostomy bag, this is usually temporary and is reversible within 3-6 months.
This refers to surgical resection of the rectum and distal colon, along with the anus and sphincter complex. This operation is reserved only for the most distal and advanced tumors and necessitates a permanent colostomy.
Whether you’re a good candidate for laparoscopy depends on variables such as the size and location of your rectal tumor.
The physicians at Suburban Surgical Associates are experts at performing a laparoscopic rectal resection, a procedure that removes your cancer cells via minimally-invasive surgery, although sometimes a more traditional open approach is required.
In some cases, the ends of the colon cannot or should not be reconnected after an operation due to the location of the tumor or due to the risk of leakage at the site of reconnection. In those instances, your doctor creates a permanent or temporary ostomy to allow fecal matter to exit the body via an opening in the abdominal wall.
Your doctor creates a colostomy when the colon or large intestine is brought up through the abdominal wall, and an ileostomy refers to when the more proximal small intestine is brought up.
In most cases, an ostomy is intended to be a temporary inconvenience, although in some cases, it may be a permanent fixture.
For almost all people, there's a significant adjustment period to this, and our surgical team and expert ostomy nurses we work with will help educate you on the ins and outs of ostomy care after your operation.