Our Approach

Patients who come to the Siteman Cancer Center for treatment of colorectal cancer are seen by a team of Washington University Physicians— surgical, medical and radiation oncologists — often during the same visit.  A health psychologist is also available as needed.

Experienced nurses then spend time with you, answering your questions and putting you in touch with resources that may help during this stressful time. These nurses offer patients printed information on colorectal disease, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other related issues. As a unique feature of your care, we also offer the services of a palliative care specialist who can help you fit treatment into your own special circumstances, if needed.

Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for colon and rectal cancer and is often the only treatment that is needed. In other cases, the best results are obtained with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Washington University colon and rectal surgeons at the Siteman Cancer Center treat about 350 new cancer patients a year, and are internationally recognized for their expertise. They have pioneered “sphincter-sparing” surgical techniques that allow most patients with rectal cancer to be treated successfully without a colostomy, a procedure that creates an opening in the abdomen for the drainage of stool. Our surgeons also are leaders in developing minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery techniques to treat colon and rectal cancer without making a large incision.

Even recurrent or metastatic cancer that has spread can be treated surgically. Special techniques for liver or pelvic surgery are used to achieve the best cure rates possible for these cases.

Radiation therapy may be used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy uses drugs given by mouth or intravenously to kill cancer cells.

Washington University colorectal cancer physicians at Siteman are actively involved in clinical trials that investigate new surgical procedures, chemotherapy regimens and other approaches to cure. Having your cancer treated at Siteman gives you access to new therapies that are as good as – or potentially better than – current standard therapies available elsewhere. Our physicians also work closely with medical geneticists to identify patients with inherited forms of colon or rectal cancer and support their families with counseling and screening.