Chemotherapy is medication that travels throughout the body to destroy or disrupt cancer cells. You will likely need chemotherapy as part of treatment, either in the form of pills or injections. Chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy is the first-choice treatment for many patients. If you have surgery, you may need chemotherapy afterward.
Irradiating tumors with X-rays can kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy takes many forms. Radiation delivered from outside the body is known as external beam radiation. One type is intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which delivers radiation from different angles and at varying intensities from a machine that rotates around the patient. Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy can precisely irradiate a tumor from different angles based on a computer-generated map of its location. Stereotactic body radiation delivers high-dose treatment in a few appointments instead of daily sessions for weeks. Rarely, some patients may receive brachytherapy, which is the placement of radioactive seeds inside the body near the tumor.
If surgery is necessary, a surgeon may perform a local resection, which is removal of the tumor and some surrounding tissue. Local resection is most appropriate for small, early-stage cancers. Rarely, surgery to remove the anus, rectum, part of the colon and, in some cases, nearby lymph nodes, may be necessary. This is called an abdominoperineal resection. Markey surgeons use minimally invasive techniques, including robotic surgery, when possible.