Colorectal cancer is an abnormal growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Cancers of the colon and rectum may seem similar, but in many cases require different approaches and the care of a specialty team.

“There are nuances within colon and particularly rectal cancer treatment that have changed in recent years. My job as a colorectal surgeon is to guide patients through the treatment process in an appropriate and customized way that takes into account their cancer, stage, and personal circumstances,” says Alan Hyde, MD, fellowship trained colorectal surgeon with University Surgical Associates. 

In most instances, colon cancer is treated with a surgery first approach that provides pathological staging that will help determine the next steps in treatment. After surgery, the lymph nodes are examined to look for high risk features, or things that can only be seen with microscopic evaluation. From there, your cancer team determines whether chemotherapy is needed to treat the potential further spread of the disease. When the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, chemotherapy may be used to shrink the size of the tumor(s).

Treatment for rectal cancer follows a different approach – for many years there was a high rate of local recurrence, even when the newest surgical techniques were used to remove the cancer. Now, thanks to new ultrasound and MRI technologies, surgeons get better information about the size and location of the tumor and whether it has spread. Depending on the stage, neoadjuvant treatment of chemotherapy and radiation is often used for rectal cancer. Neoadjuvant simply means treatment that happens before surgery.

“The vast majority of people with rectal cancer will need radiation and a dose of chemo to shrink the tumor and treat local disease to make surgery more effective,” says Dr. Hyde. “With this approach, we’re more likely to have a successful surgery and less likely to have tumor regrowth, bringing recurrence rates way down.”

The Benefits of Multidisciplinary Care

For some people, the thought of waiting even a short period of time before removing the cancer is difficult to understand. Dr. Hyde notes that he takes time to counsel his patients and give them a window into the world of multidisciplinary treatment, where a team of cancer specialists comes together to determine the very best approach. Working with medical and radiation oncology, gastrointestinal specialists and looking at the constantly changing literature that helps guide treatment decisions, the team develops a comprehensive and personalized plan.

“The goal isn’t to rush to treatment. In fact, our team works in an expedient but thoughtful manner to ensure that not just the right treatment, but also the right order of treatment is followed,” says Dr. Hyde. “There is so much nuance in determining the best path, and we take the latest information, your individual cancer, and situation into account.”

With University Surgical Associates and Chattanooga’s medical community as a whole, you or your loved one has access to the latest treatment strategies close to home – where there are resources and skilled physicians who provide the best possible treatment for colon and rectal cancer.

“I want patients to feel confident in our team and in our access to the very best strategies, tools and cancer fighting treatments,” says Dr. Hyde. “I truly enjoy taking care of my patients and getting them back to their previous lifestyle. Cancer treatment can be a long and confusing road, but we are here for every step of the way.”

Click here for more information about colorectal cancer services at USA. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hyde, call 423.267.0466.