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Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum and can sometimes spread to the liver, lung or the tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen (peritoneum). Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you can trust the experts at Loma Linda University Cancer Center to provide the personalized care you need.

Our physicians and support staff are nationally recognized by U.S. News and World Report for treating colon cancer. In addition, our experts believe your quality of life during treatment is just as important as treating your cancer. Learn more about our comprehensive treatment offerings, including minimally-invasive surgery and leading-edge chemotherapy treatments.

Why Choose Us for Colorectal Cancer Care

  • Our multidisciplinary team of medical, radiation and surgical oncologists works together to consider every available treatment option, while our dedicated support staff cares for you throughout your cancer treatment.
  • Our specialists are focused on colorectal cancer, so you can be confident your surgeon is a specialist in treating your specific condition.
  • Our team includes specialists in treating colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver. We offer more treatment options, including tumor ablation, embolization and surgery that is not available elsewhere in the region.
  • We’re the only cancer treatment center in the region to perform Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC). This chemotherapy treatment is combined with cytoreductive surgery to remove tumors that have spread to the lining of the abdomen.
  • We’re world-renowned experts in the robotic resection of rectal cancer and sphincter-saving surgery.
  • Our surgeons are recognized experts in nerve-sparing techniques that preserve urinary and sexual function for a better quality of life.
Dr. Luca Fabrizio
“In the last 20 years, our approach to cancer care has improved profoundly. More patients than ever are not only completely cured, but also enjoy a better quality of life. Our diverse team of specialists continue to pioneer innovations in colorectal cancer care.”

Cancers and Conditions We Treat

As the only comprehensive cancer treatment center in the region, we treat all types of colorectal cancers, including:

  • Colon cancer - cancer that forms in the large intestine or the bowel.
  • Rectal cancer - cancer that affects the lower part of the colon to the rectum.
  • Appendiceal cancer - cancer found in the appendix.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) - soft tissue sarcomas found in the intestinal tract, usually in the stomach or small intestine.
  • Neuroendocrine tumors (NET) of the colon - tumors that form in the colon from cells that interact with hormones or the nervous system. These tumors can be difficult to diagnose.

Treatment for Colorectal Cancer

We offer comprehensive medical, radiation and surgical treatments on the leading-edge of cancer care, which can result in improved outcomes and long-term survival. From the first day of your treatment journey, we think about your overall wellness. We treat your cancer while trying to minimize the effects treatment has on you. Our goal is to offer you the best possible quality of life while still successfully treating your cancer.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, our team will work with you to create a plan that will address your needs throughout treatment and survivorship. We understand your treatment may need to be adjusted during your cancer care journey. This is why our team meets weekly to discuss the most effective cancer treatment options, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, surgery or supportive care. For advanced stages, you will often have a combination of treatments with different therapies to give you the best possible outcome.

Your Patient Journey

Screening & Diagnosis

Screening

Based on factors like age and family history, your doctor may recommend regular screening for colorectal cancer. Regular screening is one of the best ways to catch colorectal cancer when it's easier to treat. Ask your doctor if screening is right for you.

Diagnosis

To understand your cancer and create the best treatment plan, our team will run tests to diagnose your cancer. These tests may include:

  • Biopsy
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Endoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Gallium 68 PET/CT for neuroendocrine tumors
  • Genetic testing
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)

 

Staging

Staging your cancer is an important part of creating your treatment plan. Our team will run tests or perform surgery to see the size and location of your tumors or cancer, and if it has spread to any other organs. You may be at stage 0 if your cancer is found early, or stage 1 through 4, depending on the size of the tumor and if the cancer has spread to other organs.

Accurately staging your cancer is the first step in developing a unique treatment plan for your colorectal cancer. Our colorectal cancer team then discusses your treatment plan together to find the right combination of treatments to fight your cancer.

Medical Treatments

Your treatment plan will likely include medical treatments to kill the cancer cells and stop it from spreading. We specialize in targeted medical therapies and chemotherapy that can help improve your outcomes, including HIPEC, a precision chemotherapy treatment and specialized surgery that target tumors which have spread to the lining of the abdomen. We’re the only cancer treatment center in the region to offer the HIPEC treatment.

Targeted therapy combines genetic testing and chemotherapy in precision medicine to stop cancer cells from growing and dividing. These medications can be given in a number of ways — orally, by injection or by IV drip — depending on your treatment plan. We offer advanced targeted therapy, including epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) blockage therapy and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) blockage therapy. Your care team will talk with you about your specific plan as well as how many cycles of chemotherapy you’ll need.

Immunotherapy uses your body’s own immune system to help you fight cancer. Innovative new treatments in immunotherapy are discovered every year, and the experts at Loma Linda University Cancer Center offer these leading-edge treatments.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays to help kill cancer cells, but in most cases, it isn’t as effective as a stand-alone therapy. For that reason, it’s often used in combination with chemotherapy and surgical options. It can be given before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) to shrink the size of a tumor and preserve the sphincter, or after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to destroy any remaining cancer cells and decrease the risk of tumor recurrence.

Progressive radiation treatments include:

  • Proton beam cancer treatment (proton therapy) – an advanced form of radiation therapy that delivers higher doses of radiation directly to the tumor. This results in more precise treatment and fewer side effects. Loma Linda University Health was the first hospital-based treatment center in the world to offer proton therapy.
  • Proton-based stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) – used to deliver more precise radiation, while saving healthy surrounding tissue. SBRT is also used when there is a recurrence of cancer, where standard radiation treatment could not be used again.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – used to precisely target lower GI tumors. IMRT delivers high-dose radiation to the tumor and reduces damage to healthy tissues in the small bowel, bladder, genitalia, skin and bone marrow.

How does radiation therapy work?

Radiation therapy uses a machine like the one below to find and destroy cancer in your body.

Our radiotherapy system allows us to locate, target and shrink tumors with pinpoint precision. Based on the location of your tumors, we create a custom radiation treatment plan, optimized by advanced computer software. The colorful image below shows an example of a treatment plan near a patient's pelvis. The red lines represent bullseyes close to the tumors and correspond with more intense radiation treatment. The blue-green areas on the outer edges of the pelvis will receive less intense radiation.

With an optimized plan, we use radiation treatment to kill the cancer cells inside your tumors. Using radiation beams finely tuned to your body and each tumor, our radiotherapy system delivers accurate, high-dose treatment. Because the system is so precise, we can avoid damage to the healthy tissues around a tumor. The end result is powerful, fast and comfortable radiation therapy that helps you fight colorectal cancer.

Surgery

If you need surgery as part of your treatment plan, our specialists offer comprehensive surgical options, including:

  • Minimally invasive and robotic resections of rectal tumors, colon and bowel
  • Minimally invasive trans-anal rectal tumor resection
  • Colostomy surgery to bypass part of the colon damaged or obstructed by a tumor
  • Minimally invasive and robotic resections of the liver if your cancer has spread, including partial or major hepatectomy (liver resection), microwave ablation and chemoembolization

Research and Clinical Trials

Loma Linda University Health is committed to improving the treatment of cancer. Through research, our physicians are improving the treatment of colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver or the lining of the abdomen. We offer these treatments as a first treatment option to patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

Supportive Care

The cancer care journey is not always an easy path. We understand that in order to fight your cancer, we need to focus on whole person care, not just your cancer. We believe true wellness involves more than healing your body — it involves supporting your mind, body and spirit. Our team is here to support you and your family throughout this journey, whether you need help understanding your diagnosis and treatment options, coordinating appointments or simply need a hand to hold.

Our support services include:

  • A dedicated nurse navigator and intake coordinator to answer all of your questions and concerns from diagnosis through treatment
  • Dietitians to help you to optimize your nutrition and manage the gastrointestinal side effects of cancer treatment
  • Certified ostomy nursing care
  • Pastoral and spiritual care
  • Patient education
  • Psychosocial care
  • Support groups
  • Symptom management experts who focus on helping you through your cancer treatment and the side effects you may experience