Rectal cancer

Rectal cancer overview

You are at the center of everything we do at the Colorectal Cancer Specialty Clinic at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Here, we surround you with a team of specialists who work together closely to provide expertly targeted, complete care and compassionate support throughout your treatment and beyond.

We guide you every step of the way, combining our deep clinical expertise in colorectal cancer with a commitment to meet your unique needs.

Why choose SCCA for rectal cancer treatment?

  • Experienced colorectal cancer specialists
    SCCA patients receive state-of-the-art care, from accurate diagnosis and staging to the latest treatments, from some of the world’s leading doctors. In fact, our doctors help define the national standards for colorectal cancer care. We treat many patients with nonmetastatic rectal cancer as well as a large number of people with metastatic disease.
  • Comprehensive rectal cancer treatment
    Our doctors are experts in the full spectrum of treatments rectal cancer may require. Based on the unique characteristics of your tumor, your team may recommend radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery or targeted therapy, all available here.
  • Rectal cancer clinical trials
    To give you access to the most innovative therapies, SCCA unites the leading researchers and cancer specialists of Fred Hutch and UW Medicine so you can take part in colorectal cancer clinical studies not available everywhere.
  • Where you're treated first matters most
    Studies have shown that patients evaluated and treated at a multidisciplinary cancer center, like SCCA, have better outcomes and that the first treatment you receive for cancer is by far the most important. Patients who begin treatment at SCCA often have better outcomes than those who started treatment elsewhere.
  • A national leader in cancer care
    SCCA is the leading cancer treatment center in the region and among the top nationally, according to U.S. News & World Report.
  • NCI comprehensive cancer center
    We are a comprehensive cancer center, a designation from the National Cancer Institute that reflects our scientific leadership and the depth and breadth of our research to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Metastatic A metastatic cancer is a cancer that has spread to other areas of the body by way of the lymph system or bloodstream. Radiation therapy The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Staging Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from where it first formed to other parts of the body. Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from where it first formed to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment. Targeted therapy A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. Some targeted therapies block the action of certain enzymes, proteins or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Other types of targeted therapies help the immune system kill cancer cells, or they deliver toxic substances directly to cancer cells and kill them. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment. Most targeted therapies are either small molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies.
Second opinions

If you’ve been diagnosed with rectal cancer, we recommend getting a second opinion before choosing where you’ll be treated. 

Though you can benefit from a second opinion at any time, it is most valuable when you are first diagnosed and have the widest array of treatment options. 

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) is home to the region’s only Colorectal Cancer Specialty Clinic, where our medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists and supportive care professionals come together weekly to discuss and care for people with rectal cancer as a team. During a single visit you get the second opinion of not one doctor but an entire group of specialists.

Talk with gastrointestinal cancer experts who understand your disease in greater depth than the general oncologists in your local community.

Call us at (855) 557-0555 to request an appointment for a second opinion.

How a second opinion can help

Getting a second opinion from doctors who specialize in rectal can help you:

Feel confident that your cancer has been accurately diagnosed and staged

Pathologists, radiologists and gastroenterologists from SCCA are experts in diagnosing rectal cancers and have access to the latest technologies to help ensure we know as much about your cancer as possible.

Consider state-of-the-art treatment options

A second opinion may identify better, more advanced or more aggressive options for treatment, including sphincter-sparing surgeries, clinical studies of new chemotherapies and advanced radiation technologies, such as proton therapy.

Understand the benefits of specialized, multidisciplinary care

The team of rectal cancer specialists from SCCA offers in-depth understanding of the full spectrum of treatments. We have first-hand knowledge of current research and a wealth of treatment experience.

Start with a course of therapy tailored to you

We focus on you, not just your cancer, when developing a treatment plan. We consider your goals, plans, beliefs, values and preferences to design your treatment holistically.

Learn whether genetics play a role

Your genetic make-up may have played a role in the development of your cancer, and it might impact your treatment. All patients who come to our Colorectal Cancer Specialty Clinic have genetic testing and microsatellite instability testing, which can identify a DNA-repair problem that leads to tumors. Some patients need further testing for a hereditary condition called Lynch syndrome. Depending on our findings, you and your family may benefit from SCCA’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Program.

Request a second opinion

We recognize that rectal cancer is serious. Getting a second opinion does not have to delay the start of your treatment. We aim to see you within one week.

To request a second opinion with an SCCA doctor, call (855) 557-0555.

Gastrointestinal Refers to the stomach and intestines. Also called GI. Genetic testing Tests that can be done to see if a person has certain gene changes known to increase cancer risk. Hereditary In medicine, this describes the passing of genetic information from parent to child through the genes in sperm and egg cells. Also called inherited. Lynch syndrome An inherited disorder in which affected individuals have a higher-than-normal chance of developing colorectal cancer and certain other types of cancer, often before the age of 50. Pathologist A physician who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. Radiation oncologist A physician who has special training in using radiation to treat cancer. Radiologist A physician who has special training in creating and interpreting pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are made with X-rays, sound waves or other types of energy. Treatment plan A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A treatment plan may also include information about how much the treatment is likely to cost and about regular follow-up care after treatment ends.
Second opinions

If you’ve been diagnosed with rectal cancer, we recommend getting a second opinion before choosing where you’ll be treated. Though you can benefit from a second opinion at any time, it is most valuable when you are first diagnosed and have the widest array of treatment options. 

Facts

Most rectal cancers begin as a growth called a polyp and develop slowly over many years. Screenings, like colonoscopies, give your doctor the opportunity to remove polyps before they become cancerous or to spot cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to cure. 

Treatment

SCCA experts offer comprehensive care for rectal cancer, including advanced treatments and new options available only through clinical studies.

Many patients are seen at our Colorectal Cancer Specialty Clinic. At this clinic, all of the specialists who will be involved in your care will meet to design treatment that’s tailored to you. You will receive a multidisciplinary treatment plan in a single day.

Our goal is to see you within one week so you can start your treatment quickly.

A diagnosis of cancer can feel overwhelming. We have an experienced, compassionate team ready to help. There are many similarities between rectal cancer and colon cancer, but there are some differences in the ways they are usually treated.

Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Treatment plan A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A treatment plan may also include information about how much the treatment is likely to cost and about regular follow-up care after treatment ends.

Providers

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes physicians, a patient care coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.

Clinical trials

SCCA was formed, in part, to bring promising new treatments to patients faster. For rectal cancer patients, this means more treatment options at SCCA than you might find elsewhere, including the chance to participate in one of many ongoing clinical trials conducted at SCCA and its partner organizations, Fred Hutch and UW Medicine.

Resources

There are many resources online for learning about your disease, as well as organizations that provide community and support for your cancer diagnosis. Health educators at the SCCA Patient and Family Resource Center have compiled a list of trusted sources to help you get started.

Screening and early detection

Colorectal cancer screenings allow your doctor to find and remove polyps before they become cancerous. If cancer has already begun, a screening gives your doctor the opportunity to spot the signs at an early stage — when the disease is easier to cure and before you would likely notice symptoms.

Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease. Sign In medicine, a sign is something found during a physical exam or from a laboratory test that shows that a person may have a condition or disease. In medicine, a sign is something found during a physical exam or from a laboratory test that shows that a person may have a condition or disease. Some examples of signs are fever, swelling, skin rash, high blood pressure and high blood glucose. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain.