Rectum Cancer

Rectum cancer affects the cells of the lowest part of your intestine, near the anus. Like colon cancer, rectum cancer can be detected early through screening colonoscopies. Early detection leads to better outcomes for many patients.

Rectum cancer develops in a similar way to colon cancer. Because of this, it shares many of the same risk factors, including:

  • Family history of colon or rectum cancer
  • Tobacco use or exposure to tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • A diet low in fiber
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Obesity
  • Prior exposure to radiation to the pelvis

Your risk for rectum cancer increases as you age, so you should receive your first colonoscopy at age 50 and repeat the screening as your physician suggests. By identifying rectum cancer before it begins showing symptoms, you may need less treatment and treatment may be more effective.

You should see your physician if you experience any of these symptoms of rectum cancer:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Change in the appearance of stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Pain with bowel motions
  • Unexplained constipation

At Indiana University Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center, our specialized colorectal surgeons provide advanced, minimally invasive treatment options for rectum cancer. We also offer the latest clinical trials for the treatment of advanced rectum cancer, giving you more treatment options for your individual needs.

Rectum Cancer Treatment

IU Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center physicians work together as a team to care for you. This multidisciplinary team includes:

  • Colorectal surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Dietitians
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains

By using a team approach to care, we ensure that your treatment plan fits your specific case. We provide many different treatment options for rectum cancer, including:

  • Colorectal surgery. Our colorectal surgeons are among the most experienced in the nation. We offer minimally invasive surgery options that have fewer risks than open surgeries and result in faster recovery times. The most common surgery used to treat rectum cancer is rectum resection, where all or part of the rectum is removed and the colon is connected to the anus. Our goal is to remove all cancer while leaving as much healthy tissue as possible so that you can avoid colostomy. In circumstances when the rectum cancer is diagnosed early, it can be removed with endoscopy without the need for a major operation.
  • Chemotherapy. During chemotherapy, cancer cells are killed through oral medicine or intravenous therapy (IV). In some instances, you receive chemotherapy before surgery to shrink tumors. If you have advanced cancer, you may also receive chemotherapy to kill cancer cells in other areas of your body.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation can be used in combination with chemotherapy to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. This treatment technique uses beams of energy to precisely destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. This therapy helps to shrink the rectum cancer and avoid a colostomy when the rectum needs to be removed.
  • Radiofrequency ablation. Your physician may use heat from radio waves to kill malignant cells.
  • Biological therapy. During biological therapy, you receive special antibodies that stop the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • Clinical trials. Clinical trials give all patients more treatment options, including patients with late-stage cancer.

Rectum Cancer Research

Our physicians use the latest research and knowledge available to create your treatment plan. At IU Health Simon Cancer Center, we conduct leading edge rectum cancer research and often participate in clinical trials for new treatment options for advanced stages of rectum cancer. These treatments may include therapies to keep cancer from growing or new drugs to destroy cells.