Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or rectum, which are parts of the large intestine—the lower part of the body’s digestive system. The prognosis and treatment of colorectal cancer varies depending on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis and the general health of the patient. Treatment will typically consist of surgery to remove the segment of colon or rectum affected by the cancer. We also use combinations of chemotherapy and radiation for select colorectal cancers before surgery to decrease the extent of the surgical resection, thus leaving the patient with more of their colon or rectum.

Treatments and Procedures

At Intermountain Cancer Centers, our surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery whenever possible. They use the latest endoscopic, laparoscopic, robotic-assisted, and transanal excision techniques to remove the cancer; while helping patients recover faster and with less pain. We use Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) clinical care pathways to allow patient to recover faster and spend fewer days in the hospital after their surgeries.

Some early stage cancers or polyps can be removed endoscopically during colonoscopy, which involves a long, flexible tube with a small video camera at the end. Some of these early cancers or polyps can also be removed transanally. Both methods involve removing the cancers or polyps from the inside, thus avoiding the need to surgical remove a section of the colon and rectum.

Sometimes, colorectal cancer is extensive enough that it requires partial removal of the rectum (low anterior resection) or the entire rectum (proctectomy), or all or part of the colon (colectomy). Intermountain surgeons specialize in sphincter-preserving techniques to maintain normal bowel function and quality of life and, when possible, avoid the need for permanent stomas—surgical openings of the colon on the abdomen to divert the flow of feces. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, may be needed to completely eradicate cancer cells elsewhere in the body.