Rectal Cancer

About Rectal Cancer

At Penn Medicine, patients with rectal cancer receive their care from a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of rectal cancer.

The rectum is a 5-inch structure located at the end of the colon. The rectum is usually empty except when stool is propelled by the upper colon into the rectum just prior to a bowel movement.

Rectal cancer is cancerous tissue that grows along and invades the wall of the rectum. Rectal cancer and colon cancer are very similar and share many common features.  The difference in location creates important differences in how each is treated.   Rectal cancer, like colon cancer, may start as a polyp that becomes cancerous.

Penn Medicine’s multidisciplinary approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment provides better outcomes and gives patients access to the most advanced treatment, surgical techniques and clinical trials.

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more About Rectal Cancer

Diagnosing Rectal Cancer

An accurate cancer diagnosis from trusted cancer specialists is the first step in getting personalized treatment options to treat rectal cancer.

Patients who choose Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center benefit from a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists including gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists and surgeons who work together to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan custom designed for each patient with rectal cancer.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine are highly experienced in using the most advanced techniques for diagnosing rectal cancer and are actively researching better and more precise ways to detect rectal cancer.

Because an accurate diagnosis is a critical step in planning cancer treatment, it’s important patients know that when they come to the Abramson Cancer Center, they are taking an important step in getting the best cancer treatment.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right person. Penn Medicine’s contact center has experienced cancer nurses available and ready to guide patients in finding the cancer specialist right for them.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Diagnosing Rectal Cancer

Rectal Cancer Treatments

Following the diagnosis and staging of rectal cancer, cancer specialists at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center develop a personalized treatment plan. Penn’s treatment options for rectal cancer include:

  • Surgery
    • Local excision via the anus through transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM) or endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR)
    • Laparoscopic, robotic-assisted or open excision
    • Pelvic exenteration (removal of other affected organs in the pelvis)
  • Radiation therapy
    • Three-dimensional conformal radiation
    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Proton therapy
    • Volumetric-modulated arc therapy
  • Chemotherapy and biologic therapies
    • Chemotherapy
    • Monocolonal antibiody therapy
  • Clinical trials
    • Monoclonal antibody therapy
  • Other treatments
    • Integrative medicine and wellness
    • Palliative care
    • Penn Home Care and Hospice Services

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Rectal Cancer Treatments

Rectal Cancer Survivorship

Survivorship programs at Penn Medicine are a distinct phase of cancer care and are designed to help patients' transition from their cancer treatment routine to a post-cancer care lifestyle.

There are more than 12 million cancer survivors living and thriving today as a result of advances in cancer treatment. However, cancer treatments can result in physical, emotional and financial complications long after the therapy is complete.

Read more Rectal Cancer Survivorship


Nicholas Martell

Nicholas Martell was first diagnosed with prostate cancer more than ten years ago. He was healthy for many years after being treated with radiation therapy. Nick recently experienced a recurrence of his cancer. Physicians at Penn tailored his treatment

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Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are studies to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. The purpose of each clinical trial is to answer a specific question. Our physicians carefully design these studies to find new ways to improve care and quality of life ...


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