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Colon and Rectal Cancer Program

Our team treats cancers of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) and rectum. Together, the diseases are called colorectal cancers. It's believed that the majority of colorectal cancers develop in polyps known as adenomas. Some of these polyps become tumors.

UC San Diego Health employs a comprehensive approach to the treatment of colon cancer and rectal cancer, with an integrated use of surgery, radiation when applicable and chemotherapy.  We also offer genetic testing to look for mutations or genes associated with hereditary colon cancers as part of our Colorectal Cancer High-Risk Program.

Your Treatment Plan

We make every effort to see new patients within a few days of diagnosis. On your first visit, you will usually first meet with your surgeon, discuss what our pathologists have found about your cancer and review recommendations and options for treatment. Many factors are analyzed, including your personal treatment goals and the size and stage of your cancer.

As we discuss your treatment options, you may also be referred to a radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, or other members of our treatment team.

Types of Treatment

Surgery for Early-Stage Cancer

The majority of our colon cancer patients can undergo minimally invasive surgery. UC San Diego Health colorectal surgeons are experts in advanced laparoscopic surgical techniques, which use smaller incisions and result in less scarring and faster healing.

Our surgeons were the first in the region to perform minimally invasive surgery for colorectal cancer, and we see the highest number of young colorectal patients in the region.

Types of surgery for early-stage colon cancer may include:

  • Removal of small polyps during a colonoscopy
  • Removal of large polyps through an endoscopic mucosal resection
  • Laparoscopic surgery: Surgeries such as TAMIS (transanal minimally invasive surgery) combine single-incision laparoscopic methods with transanal endoscopic microsurgery. Our surgeons were the first in the region to perform minimally invasive surgery for colorectal cancer, and we continue to train surgeons throughout the nation on the TAMIS treatment method.

Surgery for Invasive or Advanced Cancer

For colon cancers that cannot be easily removed through minimally invasive techniques, your surgeon may recommend a colectomy, a procedure to remove all or part of the colon.

In cases where the cancer has spread to the liver, your surgeon may recommend surgery to remove the liver metastases. This procedure can often be done using laparoscopy as well. If the disease has spread to the abdominal cavity (locally advanced carcinomatosis), UC San Diego Health can offer surgery with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), a highly effective procedure used at only the leading cancer centers.

For patients with rectal cancer, a proctectomy may be necessary to remove all or part of the rectum. Depending upon the stage of rectal cancer, patients may be given chemotherapy and radiation before surgery. When surgery is needed, UC San Diego Heath utilizes a minimally invasive procedure with the da Vinci robot, which causes less trauma to the body and a faster patient recovery time.

Radiation Therapy

If your treatment plan includes radiation therapy, UC San Diego Health's radiation oncology practice is integrated with the surgery and medical oncology practices within Moores Cancer Center. We are dedicated to providing compassionate clinical care in a convenient, comfortable, and supportive multi-disciplinary setting.

Our center is home to the latest precision technologies in radiation oncology, and our radiation oncologists are national leaders in developing and translating new treatment techniques. 

Chemotherapy, Targeted Molecular Therapy, and Immunotherapy

Our understanding of cancer, including how genetics contribute to the disease, is advancing rapidly. We offer a variety of personalized cancer therapies, including immunotherapy and targeted molecular therapies, to treat your cancer more effectively. We can now use genetic testing to predict who will respond to a certain treatment. The goal is to match each patient with the best drug for a particular tumor.

Clinical Trials

In addition to standard approaches, you may qualify for a clinical trial, which is a final stage of research that involves patient participation in the most promising therapies and advanced technologies.

Appointments & Referrals


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For general information about colorectal cancers, see these Health Library links:

commission on cancer colorectal accreditation