Cancer of the rectum (rectal cancer): symptoms, treatment and life expectancyAbout 25.000 Germans receive the diagnosis "rectal cancer" every year. You belong to it? We are happy to explain what you need to know about the tumor on the rectum. The prognosis, life expectancy and treatment options for rectal cancer are of particular interest to many sufferers. The rectum is the last section of the large intestine. Located above the anal canal. This is where the stool collects before it is excreted through the anus. Malignant tumors in this area must be treated as soon as possible.
Symptoms: Rectal cancer often goes unnoticed at first. Possible symptoms are blood in the stool, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Therapy: Depending on the stage, surgery is sufficient or must be combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Life expectancy: 5-year survival rates average between 60 and 70% after rectal cancer treatment. You have been diagnosed with rectal cancer. Now look for a visceral surgeon with a lot of experience in this area?Our gastrointestinal experts will be happy to assist you – also in the context of a second opinion!
What are the symptoms of rectal cancer?
Often symptoms do not appear until the advanced stages. Some are quite nonspecific or mistakenly attributed to hemorrhoids.
Possible symptoms of rectal cancer:
– Alternation of diarrhea and constipation – blood in the stool – abdominal pain – physical weakness – weight loss – intestinal obstruction
How does a tumor in the rectum feel??
Some patients feel nothing at all, others only have a stomach ache or are constantly tired. However, the latter can have many causes. Does not make most patients suspicious. Because a visit to the doctor is often missed, the diagnosis of rectal cancer, especially in the first stages, is often an incidental finding or is made in the course of early detection.
What is the diagnostic procedure for suspected rectal cancer??
Usually a fecal occult blood test is performed. The largest pillar in diagnostics is rectoscopy (proctoscopy). The rectoscopy is usually not painful. Performed without anesthesia.
Further examinations such as sonography, endosonography (ultrasound from inside the intestine), a computer tomography or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the pelvis serve to clarify the extent of the tumor and daughter tumors. A careful examination is important in order to locate the rectal cancer precisely and to be able to treat it accurately.
In which stage am I? The stages are classified according to the size. Spread of rectal cancer classified.
Stages of rectal cancer:
Stage IThe tumor has spread to the connective tie or muscle layer below the intestinal mucosa or has already penetrated into the fatty tie. Stage IThe tumor has grown to more than one millimeter and/or has affected other organs. Stage IIIIn addition, the tumor has now spread to the lymph nodes. Stage IVAdditionally, metastases have now developed.
Is rectal cancer curable?
It all depends on the stage. Especially in stages I to III, the chances of recovery from rectal cancer are initially relatively good. From the second stage, however, the risk of recurrence increases. In the fourth stage, the prognosis is significantly worse, as the rectal cancer has already metastasized.
But even here a cure is possible in some cases. If the metastases are favorably located in the lungs and liver, they can be completely removed by surgery. Half of this group of patients is still alive after 5 years. In most stage IV patients, however, complete removal of the metastases is not possible. Therefore, rectal cancer is often incurable at this stage.
Prognosis and life expectancy: What are the chances of recovery from rectal cancer??
The chances of recovery from rectal cancer depend greatly on the stage in question. In general, the earlier rectal cancer is detected, the better the prognosis.
5-year survival rates depending on stage:
Stage I95 % Stage II70 – 85 % Stage III40 % Stage IV5 %
Our doctors will be happy to discuss with you what the prognosis is in your case.
What treatment options are available for rectal cancer?
Basically, the goal is both to fight the disease and to maintain fecal continence and quality of life. Therefore, we create an individual treatment concept, which is always based on the present stage.
Stage I: Surgery
In stage I, surgery is the only effective form of treatment. The aim here is to remove the rectal cancer as completely as possible. Depending on the extent of the tumor, the surgery may need to be more extensive to ensure that no residue of the rectal cancer remains. If the tumor is located in the middle to lower third of the rectum, the patient usually receives a temporary artificial bowel outlet.
How rectal cancer is operated on?
In the case of smaller rectal carcinomas, minimally invasive removal via the endoscope is sufficient. Larger tumors must be removed through an abdominal incision. Our visceral surgeons perform the procedure with the utmost care. In most cases, it is possible to preserve nerve pathways that are important for sexuality. In some cases, however, sexuality may be limited after surgery.
We always operate on our patients at clinic level, as we cooperate with appropriate institutions. You can find more information about our surgical techniques here.
Stage II and III: Surgery and radiation or chemotherapy
At these stages, the rectal cancer has already grown in size or invaded the lymph nodes. To prevent the tumor cells from recurring and later affecting the lungs or liver, further therapy is often required here in addition to surgery. If the rectal cancer is in the lower or middle third of the rectum, we perform radiation or radiation chemotherapy. Otherwise chemotherapy is used. All procedures reduce the risk of recurrence. Thus increase your life expectancy.
In radiochemotherapy, which combines radiation and chemotherapy, the side effects of both procedures can exacerbate each other. The risks you have to expect for all methods depend on your initial situation. Therefore, we discuss with you in detail what you need to be prepared for. Of course we will also inform you about the course of treatment. The guideline-based aftercare for rectal cancer on.
The goal is to enable a complete removal of the rectal cancer. Radiochemotherapy usually lasts 5 weeks. Takes place before surgery. Before we can operate, we perform a computer tomography and colonoscopy to determine the current size of the tumor. In most cases, the rectal cancer has significantly reduced in size. The surgical procedure is now not only much easier, but we are also more likely to preserve the function of the sphincter muscle. This means a better prognosis for you. Also more quality of life after surgery.