What Happenes After a Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis?

March is National Colon & Rectum Cancer Awareness Month. This is the second installment of a two part series to promote colorectal cancer awareness.

Receiving a diagnosis of colorectal cancer diagnosis is frightening. Dealing with a diagnosis of any cancer is a challenge and most patients find themselves feeling uncertain and afraid. Fortunately, resources and support are available to patients. Working with a multidisciplinary colorectal cancer treatment team, an informed patient can prepare for the journey ahead.

Colorectal Cancer Staging

Following a colorectal cancer diagnosis, the first step is to stage the cancer. Cancer staging refers to the process of identifying the size of a primary cancer, if the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes and if it has spread to distant parts of the body. Source:	National Cancer Institute

The stage is determined by using information obtained from a biopsy or surgical sample, medical imaging exams and other tests. The stage of a cancer also affects prognosis.

Colorectal cancers are grouped into five stages.

  • Stage 0 colorectal cancers have not grown beyond the innermost lining of the colon.
  • Stage I colorectal cancers have begun to spread within the colon, but remain within in the colon.
  • Stage II colorectal cancers have typically grown beyond the wall of the colon and may have affected nearby tissue, but have not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage III colorectal cancers have spread to, but not beyond, the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV colorectal cancers have metastasized and spread to distant parts of the body.

Meeting Your Colorectal Cancer Treatment Team

The experience and specialties of your treatment team will affect the outcome of your colorectal cancer. Patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer should work with numerous physicians and other health care professionals throughout their treatment. Your treatment team should include most, if not all, of the following roles:

  • Gastroenterologist.
  • Surgeon.
  • Medical oncologist.
  • Radiation oncologist.
  • Radiologist.
  • Oncologic nurses.
  • Social workers.
  • Dietician.

A colorectal cancer treatment team should work collaboratively to ensure that patients are informed, well-cared for and at the center of all treatment decisions. In addition to medical professionals, colorectal cancer patients should seek support from friends, family, other cancer patients and cancer survivors. 

Colorectal Treatment Options

Following the review of a patient’s individual case, the medical team will begin making recommendations and working with the patient to develop a treatment plan. Treatment options will vary depending on cancer stage, patient age and overall health, and other factors. Treatment options may include: 

  • Surgery.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy.

Cancer treatment recommendations must be tailored to a patient’s individual needs. These needs include their personal values, goals for treatment and overall sense of well-being.

While a sense of urgency may arise following a colorectal cancer diagnosis, patients should take time to consider their situation and to choose where to seek treatment. Working together, our multidisciplinary team of colorectal cancer experts provide comprehensive and compassionate care to meet the needs of all colorectal patients.

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