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What are the treatment options for stage 4 rectal cancer?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

You will almost certainly need surgery to treat stage 4 rectal cancer. Your doctor may recommend a colectomy to remove the part of the rectum that contains the cancer. Often, the healthy parts of the colon can be fused together again, but depending on the exact location of rectal cancer, a colostomy may be required. A stent may be added if necessary to keep the rectum open if a tumor is blocking it. Another possibility is pelvic exenteration; if the cancer is growing into other organs (bladder, prostate, uterus), they will have to be removed as well as the rectum.

Since rectal cancer has spread to other parts of the body at stage 4, you will need additional treatment after surgery. Your doctor will likely recommend a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes this treatment is targeted specifically to where the cancer has spread, such as injecting chemotherapy into an artery that carries blood to the liver. Targeted therapy may be used (possibly with chemotherapy) to specifically attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy, using the body's immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells, has also been used in advanced rectal cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.