Treatment for Rectal Cancer

The most effective way to treat rectal cancer is often a combination of treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The rectal cancer experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering work together to customize a plan of care that fits your unique needs.

Surgery isn’t always the best treatment for advanced rectal cancer that has spread to other organs. MSK researchers have demonstrated that most patients in this situation don’t need immediate surgery to remove the primary rectal tumor, as long as it’s not causing bowel problems. 

Chemotherapy may actually be a better option. Moving straight to chemotherapy has two potential benefits: 

  • You may be able to avoid the risk of surgical complications.
  • You can start cancer treatment throughout your entire body without delay. 

Learn more about treatment options for rectal cancer.

Surgery is the most common treatment for many stages of rectal cancer. Depending on your tumor, we may use other therapies to shrink it before surgery. 

Chemotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink your tumor or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy delivers powerful doses of radiation directly to tumors while avoiding damage to healthy tissues.