Treatment Options


Surgery is the primary treatment for most colorectal cancers. The procedure will depend on the stage and location of your tumour.

local excision is surgery to remove abnormal tissue, such as a polyp or tumour, along with a margin of healthy tissue around it. It is usually used to remove stage 0 colorectal tumours, some stage 1 rectal tumours, and local recurrence of rectal cancer.

bowel resection is the most common type of surgery for colorectal cancer. It removes part of the intestine and nearby lymph nodes. Depending on the location of the tumour, the surgery may necessitate the removal of half, most, or all of the colon, the rectum, and the anal canal.

colostomy or ileostomy may be done after a bowel resection. This consists of the creation of a stoma (artificial opening) from the colon to the outside of the body, passing through the abdonimal wall. This can be temporary or permanent.

lymph node dissection is surgery to remove lymph nodes near the tumour and is done during a bowel resection.

pelvic exenteration may be done to treat stage 4 or recurrent rectal cancer that has spread to nearby organs. The reproductive organs and lymph nodes in the pelvis are removed. Part of the colon, the rectum or both are usually removed. The bladder may also be removed.


Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat colorectal cancer. Chemotherapy drugs can be used alone or in combination to treat colorectal cancer. When given in combination with radiation therapy, this is referred to as chemoradiation.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is mainly used for cancer in the rectum. It may be given alone or combined with chemotherapy as part of chemoradiation. External radiation therapy is typically used, but brachytherapy (internal radiation) can be used in certain cases.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is sometimes used to treat advanced colorectal cancer. It is usually given with chemotherapy, but it may be used alone.

No treatment

If you do not want to undergo cancer treatment, you may want to consider approaches that could lessen the symptoms of your cancer. For more information, read our section on Palliative Care.


Information taken from Canadian Cancer Society.