What to Expect from Colon & Rectal Cancer Care

Learn what’s involved in your treatment for colon and rectal cancer at Henry Ford.

You may have many questions if you’ve learned you have colon cancer, rectal cancer, or anal cancer.

Our job at Henry Ford is to provide the best possible care. That includes giving you the information you need to be part of your care team. We’ll be by your side every step of the way, starting with your first appointment.

What can I expect from my care at Henry Ford?

Our team of colon and rectal cancer care specialists will make sure you’re well prepared for your care, during and after. Your care and comfort are our top priorities.

  • What is Henry Ford’s approach to colon & rectal cancer care?

    We believe in a team approach to personalized cancer care. We design our treatments around you -- your needs, overall health, age, lifestyle and other factors.

    Some hospitals have teams that discuss only the most complex cancer cases. At our weekly meeting, we discuss every patient who has had a biopsy, and then we develop a personalized care plan for each. About 15 doctors will study your case as part of our tumor board, and they’ll agree on the best treatment to recommend for your care. Our tumor board includes:

    • Surgeons
    • Gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in the medical management of the digestive tract)
    • Medical oncologists (cancer specialists in chemotherapy and medical oncology)
    • Radiation oncologists (doctors who specialize in providing radiation oncology therapy for colon and rectal cancer)
    • Gastrointestinal pathologists (doctors and medical professionals who study cells in the lab and specialize in colon and rectal cancer)
    • Nurse navigators and clinical trial nurses

    We support you and your family from diagnosis through survivorship. We provide everything you need to manage the challenges of colon and rectal cancer, including:

  • What can I expect at my first appointment?

    We will explain your treatment plan and answer your questions. During this appointment, you will:

    • Meet your nurse navigator, who will be your point of contact throughout your treatment and answer any questions you and your family may have
    • Meet with your surgeon
    • Learn about the stage of the cancer
    • Learn about the treatment options we recommend
    • Understand what to expect before, during, and after treatment
    • Schedule appointments with other physicians who will care for you, usually including a medical oncologist (cancer specialist) and radiation oncologist
    • Schedule any additional tests

    Your first appointments will focus on four goals:

    • Patient education: Your nurse navigator will describe the treatment process, introduce you to our specialists, and explain our comprehensive patient support services.
    • Understanding your diagnosis: Your surgeon will explain your treatment plan to you. Genetic conditions cause some types of colorectal cancer. In these cases, the team will discuss genetic testing to understand the diagnosis and what options we can offer your family.
    • Arranging personalized treatment: Our nurse navigators will help you get started with the appointments you need for your personalized treatment plan.
    • Follow-up care: Some patients need to have a short- or long-term ostomy. If your team expects you will need this, an ostomy nurse practitioner will answer your questions and teach you what’s involved in ostomy care.

    We strongly encourage you to bring a family member, a friend, or another caregiver to your appointments. It can help to have another person there with you to take notes and ask questions.

  • What can I expect from my colonoscopy?

    We recommend these screenings to catch colon and rectal cancer early or prevent them from ever occurring.

    The colonoscopy exam takes about 30 minutes, but it requires some preparation:

    • A day or two before the colonoscopy, your doctor may have you switch to a liquid diet. You will take strong laxatives to empty your colon. You will need to be near a bathroom, as you may need to go frequently. This process, called bowel prep, lets the doctor see clear images of your colon.
    • You will take medicine so that you will sleep through the colonoscopy and not feel any discomfort. You will need someone to go with you to the colonoscopy, wait while you have the exam, and drive you home. You will not be able to drive yourself.
    • In a private room, the doctor (usually a colon and rectal surgeon or a gastroenterologist) will use a colonoscope -- a thin tube, about the size of a finger, with a light and a tiny camera on the end.
    • The doctor carefully guides the colonoscope through the rectum and into the colon. The doctor can view images of the inside of your colon on a screen.
    • After the colonoscopy, you can go home. You probably will still be sleepy from the medicine, but you can return to your usual activities the next day.
    • Soon after the exam, your doctor will tell you the results of your colonoscopy.
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