Metastatic rectal cancer is a malignancy that has traveled from the rectum to other areas of the body. While cancer can spread anywhere, there are specific locations where rectal cancer is more likely to spread. The most common are the liver and lungs, as well as the peritoneum (abdominal lining) and brain.
What symptoms are associated with metastatic rectal cancer?
Generalized symptoms like fatigue and unexpected weight loss are common in advanced stages of rectal cancer. Additionally, the specific area of the body affected will determine the other symptoms a person may experience. For example, rectal cancer that spreads to:
- The lungs may result in shortness of breath, chest pain or a chronic cough.
- The liver may result in nausea, jaundice or abdominal swelling.
- The peritoneum may result in abdominal pain or discomfort.
- The brain may result in headaches, double vision, confusion or memory loss.
How is metastatic rectal cancer treated?
In cases where rectal cancer has spread to distant areas of the body, surgery may not be a viable option if there are multiple tumors or a tumor is difficult to access. Instead, a systemic treatment like chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be a better option for destroying cancerous cells and shrinking tumors. Treatments may also be combined. For example, chemotherapy may be used to shrink a tumor, making it small enough to safely remove surgically.
Metastatic rectal cancer is complex, and no two cases are exactly alike. Therefore, it is important to work with a team of dedicated experts who have a high level of experience in treating this type of cancer. At Moffitt Cancer Center, our team of specialists takes a collaborative approach to outlining a treatment plan. Our patients benefit from individualized treatment, which gives them the best chance at a successful outcome and improved quality of life.