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Treatment for bowel (rectal) cancer

Bowel cancer can start in the large bowel (colon cancer) or back passage (rectal cancer). It is also called colorectal cancer. 

This section is about treatment for rectal cancer that hasn't spread to another part of the body.

When colon and rectal cancer spread to another part of the body it is called advanced bowel cancer.

Treatment decisions for rectal cancer

A team of doctors and other professionals discuss the best treatment and care for you. The main treatments are surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and chemoradiotherapy. 

Surgery for rectal cancer

The type of surgery you have for cancer of the back passage (rectum) depends on the position and stage of your cancer.  

Chemotherapy for rectal cancer

You might have chemotherapy for cancer of the back passage (rectal cancer), either alone or with radiotherapy. Read about how you have it and the possible side effects. 

Chemoradiotherapy for rectal cancer

Chemotherapy combined with radiotherapy is called chemoradiotherapy or chemoradiation. You usually have it before surgery for rectal cancer. 

Radiotherapy for rectal cancer

Radiotherapy uses high energy waves similar to x-rays to kill bowel cancer cells. It is a treatment for cancer of the back passage (rectal cancer).

Treatment for advanced cancer

Treatment for advanced bowel cancer can help to reduce symptoms, make you feel better and sometimes help you live longer. 

Research and clinical trials

All treatments must be fully researched before they can be adopted as standard treatment for everyone. Find out about research into bowel (colorectal) cancer. 

Follow up

After treatment, you have regular check ups and tests at the hospital. The doctors check how you are and see whether you have any problems or worries.

Last reviewed: 
18 Sep 2018
Json LD: 
Coronavirus and cancer

We know it’s a worrying time for people with cancer, we have information to help.

Read our information about coronavirus and cancer