Rectal cancer is the growth of abnormal cancerous cells in the lower part of the colon. Symptoms can include a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, rectal bleeding, stomachache, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue. Treatment is based largely on the stage of the cancer
“Once we know what the stage is, if they need chemo and radiation then we prefer to get them up front. They get the chemo/radiation, we wait for six weeks, then we do the surgery and after that then they get more chemo,” says Dr. Janette Gaw, a colorectal surgeon on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.
The American Cancer Society estimates about 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer will occur this year. You’re more likely to develop rectal cancer if you have a history of colon polyps or a family history of colorectal cancer. Other risk factors include being over 50, having previous colorectal cancer, or – for women – previous cancer of the ovaries, breast, or lining of the uterus.
“In our community we’re very fortunate, we have a very, very good relationship with gastroenterologist, the oncologist and the radiation oncologist. We coordinate the care very quickly so that people can get seen, evaluated, and a plan is made amongst the team and then we move on with the plan,” says Dr. Gaw.
There are typically four standard treatments for rectal cancer: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. The team approach to treatment has been proven to lead to a more positive prognosis for the patient.
“It definitely enhances the outcome, that has been proven. A team that works together makes your outcome better,” says Dr. Gaw.
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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.