Rectal cancer is the name given to colon cancer when it occurs in the lower part of the colon above the anus (the rectum). Rectal cancer can cause rectal bleeding or a change in bowel habits, or it can cause no symptoms and be detected only during a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is recommended for all individuals age 45 or older. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may be advised to start screening at a younger age.
If rectal cancer is detected at a very early stage, it may be removed through the anus via a special scope and small instruments without an abdominal incision. If it is more advanced, it may require a multidisciplinary approach of abdominal surgery to remove the affected rectum, possibly combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. This surgery is often done in a minimally invasive fashion, using a laparoscopic or robotic approach and small incisions to lessen discomfort and hasten recovery. In some circumstances the treatment for rectal cancer will involve a temporary or permanent ostomy bag. The surgeons at Piedmont Colorectal Associates have extensive experience in treating rectal cancer and can help to decide the best approach for each patient.