Colon and Rectal Surgery Patient Care

Colorectal Cancer Care

Washington University colon and rectal surgeons provide the highest level of care for people with colorectal cancer. As internationally recognized leaders in the field, Washington University Colon and Rectal partners with Siteman Cancer Center to treat about 350 new colorectal cancer patients each year.

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum. It is the third most common cancer and cause of cancer death globally, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Colorectal cancer is very curable when caught in the early stages,” says Chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery Matthew Mutch, MD. “Most importantly, colorectal cancer is preventable. Risk appropriate screening is the best tool to prevent or cure colorectal cancer.”

The major risk factors for colorectal cancer are age, genetics and diet. Some risks for colon cancer and rectal cancer cannot be avoided. Age, inflammatory bowel disease or an inherited syndrome are out of a person’s control. Other risk factors, including obesity or being overweight, physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and alcohol use, can be modified. The gold standard for colorectal cancer screening is the colonoscopy, because it is the best test available to detect small and large polyps and cancers.

“Polyps are abnormal growths on the inside lining of the colon,” says Steven Hunt, MD, a Washington University colon and rectal surgeon. “One type of polyp is an adenoma. Adenomas are not harmful in the early stages. If they are not removed, however, they can degenerate into a colorectal cancer. It usually takes years for an adenoma to develop into cancer. If adenomas are detected early and removed by colonoscopy, your risk of colorectal cancer is dramatically decreased. With appropriate colonoscopy screening, colorectal cancer is one of the few preventable cancers.”

Washington University colon and rectal surgeons are part of a multidisciplinary team that also includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other specialists. The team offers a personalized treatment plan based on the patient’s needs. This team-based approach allows physicians to work together to find the best solutions for patients, and often reduces the number of appointments a patient needs to schedule. The colon and rectal surgery team also includes skilled staff nurses, ostomy nurses, nurse practitioners and medical assistants.

“The treatment of rectal cancer can be complicated. A multidisciplinary team of colorectal surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists and pathologists is able to tailor the most effective treatment plan for each individual,” says Washington University colon and rectal surgeon Matthew Silviera, MD, MS.

For colon cancer, the first treatment is usually surgery to remove the tumor and the lymph nodes associated with that segment of the colon. Depending on the stage of the cancer, some patients will also receive systemic therapies, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

For rectal cancer, Washington University Colon and Rectal has pioneered surgical techniques that allow most patients to be treated successfully without a colostomy. Even colorectal cancer that has spread to other organs can be treated surgically. Washington University colon and rectal surgeons are also experts in minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer, which uses smaller incisions than traditional open surgery and usually leads to fewer complications, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery.

In addition to providing expert care, Washington University colon and rectal surgeons are at the forefront of colorectal cancer research. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Siteman Cancer Center participated in an international multicenter Phase III clinical trial studying a new type of therapy for locally advanced rectal cancer. The results of this trial led surgeons to introduce a new standard of care to reduce the length of treatment, improve disease-free survival and increase the chance of complete pathologic response in rectal cancer patients. The trial included 56 study locations, 55 of them in Europe. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine at Siteman Cancer Center were the only participants from North America.

Washington University Colon and Rectal can provide screening, care options and treatments for colorectal cancer. Colorectal surgeons see patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, the Center for Advanced Medicine – South County and Siteman Cancer Center. Kerri Ohman, MD, a fellowship-trained colon and rectal surgeon specializing in colorectal cancer and other colon and rectal conditions, sees patients at Christian Hospital.

To make an appointment with a Washington University colorectal surgeon, please call 314-454-7177 or fill out the online appointment form.

Washington University Colon and Rectal Cancer Specialists: