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Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Blase Polite, MD Oncologist Blase Polite, MD

Our physicians work with each patient to determine the best course of treatment based on the stage of the cancer, as well as the patient's medical history and lifestyle factors. For patients with early stage colon or rectal cancer, surgery often is the first and only step. Other patients may require chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. While we may recommend different approaches to treatment, our goal for each patient remains the same: to treat the colorectal cancer successfully while minimizing the risk against quality of life.

Surgery for Colorectal Cancer

Konstantin Umanskiy, MD Surgeon Konstantin Umanskiy, MD

The University of Chicago is a leader in minimally invasive, robotic and sphincter-sparing procedures. Using minimally invasive techniques, our surgeons can remove a cancerous mass while preserving the surrounding tissue. Minimally invasive and robotic procedures also can result in less pain and scarring and a shorter recovery time than traditional, open surgeries. The University of Chicago Medicine performs more minimally invasive colorectal procedures than other medical centers in the region. For patients, this expertise translates into a more accurate procedure with better outcomes.

» Learn more about robotic colorectal surgery

Our surgeons offer the full range of procedures to treat colorectal cancer, including:

  • Segmental colectomy/left or right colectomy: Removal of a portion of the colon » More about colectomy
  • Total abdominal colectomy: Removal of the entire colon » More about colectomy
  • Total proctocolectomy: Removal of the colon, rectum, and anus
  • Abdominal perineal resection: Removal of the anus, rectum, sigmoid colon, and creation of a permanent colostomy (an opening in the abdomen for stool to pass through)
  • Small bowel resection: Removal of part of the small intestine
  • Stoma creation for fecal diversion: Creation of an opening in the abdomen for stool to pass through. This may be temporary or permanent.
HIPEC for colorectal cancers

Sphincter-Saving Procedures for Rectal Cancer

Oftentimes, patients with cancer in the mid or low rectum are told that surgical procedures to remove the mass will also involve the removal of their sphincter. These operations result in the need for a colostomy – an opening in the abdominal wall through which stool passes. Our surgeons offer sphincter-sparing procedures when the tumor can be adequately resected without compromising cancer control. In some cases, surgeons at the University of Chicago can use advanced techniques to remove rectal tumors without compromising sphincter function.

In addition, the University of Chicago medical center is one of only a few hospitals that offers transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM), a new minimally invasive technique in which early stage cancers or superficial rectal polyps can be removed through the anus without requiring surgery. Since no incisions are made, patients experience less pain and are usually able to leave the hospital within one or two days.

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy

Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are typically recommended for patients who have a more advanced stage of disease. They are sometimes prescribed before or after surgery to prevent recurrence of the cancer. Chemotherapy is prescribed by medical oncologists, while radiation therapy is prescribed by radiation oncologists. Advanced technology including Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), respiratory motion management, imaged-guided radiation therapy, and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) are available for patients who undergo radiation therapy.

» Learn more about radiation therapy

Research and Clinical Trials

Research and Clinical Trials

Through our participation in clinical trials, patients have access to leading treatment options that aim to improve cure rates and/or improve quality of life after therapy. Our physicians are currently studying the use of preoperative chemotherapy for locally advanced rectal cancer and selective non-operative management for patients with a good response to chemotherapy/radiation for rectal cancer. We are also examining the effectiveness and safety of cancer vaccines and the use of vitamins for colorectal cancer prevention.

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