Colorectal Cancer Treatment and Support

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center’s team of colorectal cancer experts is dedicated to your successful treatment. You get the best care possible with access to the latest, most effective treatments, including clinical trials. Banner MD Anderson’s supportive approach treats the whole person, not just the cancer.

What Treatments Are Available for Colorectal Cancer?

To treat colorectal cancer, we take a multidisciplinary approach and work with you to create a care plan that considers:

  • Location of the cancer (colon vs rectal)
  • The stage of the cancer
  • Other medical conditions you have
  • Your overall health
  • Potential side effects of a treatment
  • Medications you take
  • Your social support

Colorectal cancer in stages 0, I, II, and III are often curable with surgery. Some patients with stages II or III colorectal cancer are also treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy before or after surgery. In some cases, even stage IV colorectal cancer is potentially curable. This can occur when the metastatic spread is relatively little and limited usually to the liver.

Surgery

Surgical removal of the tumor and affected areas is the most common colorectal cancer treatment.  In most cases, surgery is done in conjunction with multimodal therapy that also includes chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy. A colostomy bag is rarely needed. In some cases of rectal cancer surgery, a temporary diverting ileostomy is done to allow for safer recovery. Surgical therapy can also be offered in some cases even with metastatic disease. In particular, spread to the liver can sometimes be safely removed, offering a possibility for cure in selected patients. More advanced surgical therapies are also being offered at Banner MD Anderson, including removal of abdominal spread with heated peritoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) and liver-directed pump (HAI) chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can help shrink tumors before surgery or kill cancer cells left behind. This is typically used only for rectal cancer therapy. The number of radiation therapy treatments varies from patient to patient. Side effects generally go away after treatment is finished and may include fatigue, skin reactions, nausea and diarrhea. Sexual problems and infertility may occur after radiation therapy to the pelvis.

Drug Therapy

Drug or systemic, therapy uses medications given through the bloodstream to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. It includes:

  • Chemotherapy drugs end the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide.
  • Targeted therapy drugs target the cancer’s genes and blocks growth and spread.
  • Immune, or biologic, therapy increases the body's natural defenses to fight cancer.

Medication therapy’s side effects can be managed with additional medication or treatment. Side effects may include fatigue, rash, diarrhea, nausea, fever, body pains, itching, coughing, decreased appetite and shortness of breath.

No Treatment

Some patients may decide to not seek treatment. Reasons for this vary, but it’s the patient’s right to refuse treatment. Even if you don’t choose to treat cancer, Banner MD Anderson can help you manage the symptoms through our palliative care.

Caring for Your Symptoms

Banner MD Anderson provides excellent care to treat your cancer and any side effects or symptoms you experience. Our integrative oncology therapies focus on reducing symptoms, improving quality of life and being there for our patients and their families. Learn more about Banner MD Anderson’s integrative oncology program.

Additionally, many people find cancer support groups helpful during or after treatment. Your doctor can connect you with these and other resources.