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What is the Treatment for Rectal Cancer?

Delve into the multifaceted world of rectal cancer treatment, encompassing surgery, chemotherapy, and advanced therapies. Navigate tailored strategies for effective, comprehensive care.

  • 31 Jan 2024
  • 3 min read

Rectal cancer, a formidable adversary, necessitates a nuanced approach to treatment. This exploration delves into the multifaceted strategies employed against rectal cancer. As we navigate the complexities of rectal cancer treatment, it's imperative to understand the diverse modalities available, ranging from surgery to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy, and supportive palliative care.

Treatment of Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer demands a nuanced and comprehensive approach to treatment, combining various modalities to address the unique characteristics of each case. 

  • Surgery

Surgery plays a pivotal role in rectal cancer treatment, and the choice of procedure depends on factors such as cancer size, location, and the overall health of the patient.

  1. Transanal Local Excision: Ideal for very small rectal cancers involving the use of a colonoscope or specialised scope through the anus for non-aggressive tumours unlikely to spread.
  2. Low Anterior Resection: Removes larger rectal cancers while preserving the anus. The specific procedure varies based on the location of the cancer.
  3. Abdominoperineal Resection (APR): Recommended for rectal cancers near the anus, removing the rectum, anus, and part of the colon, often requiring a colostomy.
  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is deployed at various stages in rectal cancer treatment to eradicate remaining cancer cells and mitigate recurrence risks. Administered post-surgery to eliminate residual cancer cells. Combined with radiation therapy pre-surgery to shrink larger tumours, making them easier to remove. Provides symptom relief in cases of unresectable or metastatic rectal cancer.

  • Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy utilises high-energy X-rays and protons to target and destroy cancer cells. It is often combined with chemotherapy for enhanced effectiveness. Administered post-surgery to eradicate any remaining cancer cells or pre-surgery to reduce tumour size, facilitating a less invasive procedure.

  • Chemoradiotherapy

This integrated approach increases the vulnerability of cancer cells to radiation, often employed in cases of larger tumours or those at a higher risk of recurrence. Administered before surgery to make a less invasive procedure possible. It is recommended post-surgery if there's an increased risk of cancer recurrence.

  • Targeted Drug Therapy

Targeted drug therapies focus on specific abnormalities within cancer cells, inducing cell death. These are typically reserved for advanced rectal cancer cases and are often combined with chemotherapy.

  • Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy mobilises the body's immune system to fight cancer. While generally reserved for advanced cases, it represents a promising avenue for cases where cancer cells have managed to evade immune detection.

  • Supportive (Palliative) Care

Palliative care, focusing on symptom relief and improving quality of life, is integral. This interdisciplinary approach involves a team of healthcare professionals providing support alongside curative treatments.

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In rectal cancer treatment, the multifaceted approach incorporates various modalities, each tailored to the case's specifics. From surgical interventions catering to different cancer sizes and locations to the synergy of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the comprehensive strategy seeks to eradicate cancer cells and manage recurrence risks. It includes targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy, reflects advancements in precision medicine, and offers hope for advanced cases. Acknowledging the role of health insurance becomes pivotal, ensuring accessibility to these diverse treatments and fostering a holistic approach in the battle against rectal cancer.

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