Colorectal Cancer Surgery and Colon Cancer Treatment

Colorectal cancer surgery – colon cancer surgery and rectal cancer surgery – is a common treatment for all stages of colon cancer and early-stage rectal cancer.

What is Colorectal Cancer Surgery?

Colon Cancer Surgery

Surgery is the preferred treatment for all stages of colon cancer. There are different types of colon cancer surgery, but the primary goal is the same for each option – removing the cancerous tissue. Depending on the pathological examination of the tissue removed, some patients may increase their chances of being cured by receiving additional therapy, such as chemotherapy.

Rectal Cancer Surgery

As with colon cancer, surgery is the most common treatment for all stages of rectal cancer, and particularly for early-stage rectal cancer. The primary goal of rectal cancer surgery is to ensure that all of the cancerous tissue is removed. For advanced stages of rectal cancer, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are sometimes used instead of, or in addition to, surgery.

Colorectal Cancer Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Colon and Rectal Surgery Section team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) provides colorectal cancer surgery treatments through its role as the Gastrointestinal Oncology surgical team at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.

Colon Cancer Surgery at BWH

For treating colon cancer, our surgeons may use one of the following surgical procedures:

  • Local excision: If the cancer is found at a very early stage, the surgeon may remove it without cutting through the abdominal wall. Instead, the doctor may put a tube through the rectum into the colon and cut the cancer out.
  • Resection: For larger cancers, the surgeon will perform a partial colectomy (removing the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it) and then sew the remaining healthy portions of the colon together. Typically, the doctor will also remove lymph nodes near the colon to determine whether they contain cancer.
  • Laparoscopically-Assisted Right Colectomy: Our surgeons also offer laparoscopic (minimally invasive) colectomy procedures. During this procedure, slender surgical instruments are introduced through small surgical incisions in the abdomen. Problems of the right colon and of the sigmoid colon are the best areas for the laparoscopy.
    laparascopically-assisted right colectomy

Rectal Cancer Surgery at BWH

The Colon and Rectal Surgery Section team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has two main goals for treating patients with rectal cancer – removing all the cancerous tissue and avoiding a permanent colostomy (a hole in the abdomen for collecting waste). To achieve these goals, our surgeons use sphincter-sparing surgical techniques.

  • Rectosigmoid Resection: For most rectal cancers, a segment of the colon is removed and then the healthy colon tissue from above the removed segment is attached, often with a special stapling instrument, to the remaining portion of the rectum.
    rectosigmoid resection
  • Local excision: If the cancer is found on the inside surface of the rectum and has not spread into the wall of the rectum, the cancer and a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue is removed. The tumor is removed through the anus and the surgical excision is stitched closed.
    rectal cancer local excision

Colorectal Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Colon and Rectal Surgery team is dedicated to working with referring physicians to provide specialized expertise in diagnosing and treating diseases and tumors of the colon, rectum, and anus.

We offer innovative treatments that include sphincter-sparing surgery, total mesorectal excision, minimally invasive surgery, sacral nerve stimulation therapy, and advanced techniques for complex anorectal disorders. Surgical oncology treatments are provided through our role as the Gastrointestinal Oncology surgical team at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.

In addition to being one of the busiest colorectal surgical practices in the region, our team is committed to advancing the field of colorectal surgery. Through laboratory research and clinical trials, we strive to provide our patients with today’s most effective therapies, and through our trainee program and our Colorectal Fellowship, we help to train tomorrow’s colorectal surgical specialists.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care - involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide at the Division of General and Gastrointestinal Surgery.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we are measured compared with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Colorectal Surgery Team

Our team includes internationally recognized surgeons who have singular experience and expertise in colon and rectal surgery and who share their knowledge as faculty at Harvard Medical School.

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our colorectal cancer surgery experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs or fill out an online appointment request form.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH