If you are suspected of having rectal cancer or have recently been diagnosed with rectal cancer, you’re probably thinking hard about what to do next. We recognize that rectal cancer is a serious and scary diagnosis. Our goal is to see you within one week so that you can start your treatment quickly.
Studies have shown that the first treatment you receive for cancer is by far the most important. The specialists at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) are experts in treating rectal and other gastrointestinal cancers.
Get Care from a Collaborative Team
At SCCA, we take a collaborative approach to treating rectal cancer. Our medical oncologists and surgeons, along with a range of other health care professionals—including nutritionists, pharmacists, advanced practice providers, nurses, genetic counselors, supportive care specialists, and social workers—work together as a coordinated team to provide you with the treatments you need when you need them. We make it easy for you to access state-of-the-art care.
Where You Will Be Seen
Depending on the extent of your cancer, you will be directed to one of the following places for your first appointment:
- Colorectal Cancer Specialty Clinic – This clinic offers everything you’ll need if you have nonmetastatic rectal cancer. During a single appointment you will meet with your team of UW Medicine doctors, including your medical oncologist and surgeon, and you will leave with a comprehensive treatment plan and clear next steps. The Colorectal Cancer Specialty Clinic is at the main SCCA clinic on Lake Union.
- Medical Oncology Clinic – If you have metastatic rectal cancer, your first appointment will usually be with a medical oncologist. We treat a large number of patients with metastatic disease, and our patients benefit from access to the latest chemotherapies and our ability to incorporate surgical treatments when appropriate. You may see one of our medical oncologists at the main SCCA clinic, EvergreenHealth, or UW Medicine’s Northwest Hospital & Medical Center.
- Secondary Liver Tumor Clinic – Over the past decade, amazing advances have been made in treating rectal cancers that have spread to the liver. At UW Medicine’s Secondary Liver Tumor Clinic, a team that includes surgeons and interventional radiologists will determine which treatment approaches will work best for you if you have liver metastases. Treatments may include concurrent liver and rectal surgeries or catheter-based therapies, such as transarterial chemoembolization.
What to Expect
What to expect during your first visit to SCCA depends on whether you have been diagnosed with nonmetastatic or metastatic rectal cancer. In either case, we’re focused on providing you with quick access to the experts and treatments you need.
Nonmetastatic Rectal Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with nonmetastatic disease and you are coming to the Colorectal Cancer Specialty Clinic for an initial visit or a second opinion, you will undergo comprehensive treatment planning that includes the following:
- A physical exam
- A review of your medical records by your team of doctors
- Microsatellite instability testing, which helps us identify which treatments will work best for you and assess your risk for other cancers
- Genetic testing for you and your family members
- Evaluation to determine whether you are eligible for any clinical studies
- Assessment for chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery
- Nutrition assessment
- Support from experienced ostomy care specialists
At your first appointment, your team of doctors will meet to discuss your case. Together, you and your team will determine the best course of treatment for you. At the end of your visit, you will leave with a comprehensive treatment plan so you’ll know exactly what to expect next.
Metastatic Rectal Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with metastatic rectal cancer and you are coming to the Medical Oncology Clinic for an initial visit or second opinion, you will meet with a medical oncologist. Medical oncologists oversee chemotherapy, which is the primary therapy for metastatic rectal cancer.
Often surgery and radiation therapy are also required. Catheter-based therapies provided by interventional radiologists may also help control some metastases to the liver. Our medical oncology team may refer you to the Secondary Liver Tumor Clinic, where surgeons work hand-in-hand with interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists to handle even the most complex cases of metastatic rectal cancer.
At your first appointment, your medical oncologist will examine you and review your medical records, including any tests or biopsies you have had. Then the doctor will recommend a course of treatment for you. You will leave the appointment knowing what your next steps will be.
Specialized Care at SCCA
Part of the specialized care we provide at SCCA comes from professionals who will support you as you go through treatment, like registered nurses who will administer your chemotherapy, nutritionists who will explain which foods you should eat to help you deal with treatment and feel the best you can, and pharmacists who will help you understand the importance of your medications and how to take them. If needed, we have a specially certified wound ostomy nurse who understands the physical and emotional impact of ostomies and can work closely with you, your family, and your doctors.
As you progress through treatment, your SCCA team coordinator and nurse will monitor your care. They will inform you about upcoming appointments and changes in your treatment plan, if changes are needed. They will make sure you know what you can expect during your treatment and in the days following your treatment. Your entire medical team will be looking out for you and your wellbeing.