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27

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

®

:

Rectal Cancer, Version 1.2017

3

Overview of cancer treatments

Radiation therapy

Side effects

Side effects are unplanned physical or emotional

reactions to treatment. Surgery causes pain,

swelling, and scars. Pain and swelling often fade

away in the weeks following surgery. Scars from

surgery don’t fully fade away.

As with any surgery, there is a chance of

complications. These include major blood loss,

infection, heart attack, and blood clots. There can

also be injury to nearby organs. Your surgical team

will design care to prevent these risks.

Rectal surgery may cause certain side effects.

Your urine stream may be delayed during healing.

If nerves or other structures are cut, bladder and

sexual functioning may be impaired. Scar tissue may

block stool from passing through. Food may leak out

where the bowel was connected.

Not all side effects of surgery are listed here. Please

ask your treatment team for a complete list of

common and rare side effects. If a side effect bothers

you, tell your treatment team. There may be ways to

help you feel better.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy most often uses high-energy

x-rays to treat rectal cancer. The x-rays damage DNA

in cancer cells. This either kills the cancer cells or

stops new cancer cells from being made.

Radiation therapy is most often used to treat the

primary rectal site. It is often given to the tumor

before surgery. If done after surgery, it is given to the

tumor bed and nearby lymph nodes.

The internal iliac, perirectal, and presacral nodes

should also be treated.

See Figure 10

. For some

T4 tumors, the external iliac nodes should also be

included.

A radiation oncologist will oversee your radiation

treatment. A radiation oncologist is a doctor who’s an

expert in treating cancer with radiation. He or she will

tailor treatment to you.

Figure 10

Radiation sites

Radiation therapy is most often

used to treat the primary rectal

site. It is often given to the tumor

before surgery. If done after

surgery, it is given to the tumor

bed and nearby lymph nodes.

perirectal nodes

presacral nodes

internal iliac nodes

external iliac nodes

rectal tumor

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