You’ve Been Diagnosed with Colon Cancer or Rectal Cancer. Now What?

If you recently learned of a colon cancer or rectal cancer diagnosis (collectively known as colorectal cancer), you're probably full of questions starting with, "What should I do next?" Our goal is to address some of those questions head-on and provide guidance to help you determine your next course of action. We're here to help you be better prepared for your first oncology appointment.

We hope this guide will make your path to colorectal cancer treatment a bit smoother. If you're in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington areas our team is available for a consultation. 

What Kind Of Doctor Should I See First?

To help make decisions about your colorectal cancer treatment, it’s helpful to consult with a medical oncologist first. As a cancer specialist, they will be up-to-date on the best way to manage your cancer depending on the location of the colon or rectal cancer, the size of the tumor, and if it’s spread to other areas of the body (also referred to as staging). They are often the lead physician over your cancer treatment process. Many times new patients seek a colorectal surgeon first, which is not always the best first step in treating cancer.

Spending time with a medical oncologist will allow them to develop a plan that would be best for your situation. They also have the benefit of consulting with other cancer specialists on the Compass Oncology team who specialize in various types of colorectal cancer treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, and others.

Find a Colon and Rectal Cancer Specialist in portland-vancouver

Understanding Colorectal Cancer

Every colorectal cancer patient at Compass Oncology will receive personalized treatment options based on several different factors. Here are the different important aspects of creating the best colon or rectal cancer treatment plan for you.

staging colorectal cancer at compass oncology by gi cancer experts

What is the Extent of My Colorectal Cancer?

The stages of colon cancer and rectal cancer are typically expressed as a number on a scale of 0 through IV — with stage 0 representing contained, non-invasive cancers and stage IV representing cancers that have spread. The results of the biopsy and images taken will allow your oncologist to determine the extent of your colorectal cancer. Read more about how oncologists determine the staging of colon and rectal cancers.

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Which Colorectal Cancer Treatments Will I Receive?

Colorectal cancer treatments are based on factors, including the stage of your cancer. It’s important to make informed decisions without delay. With rectal and colon cancers, it’s important to act fast, but not so fast that you miss opportunities to listen to the recommended cancer treatment plan and consider questions you may have. Here are some of the most common colon and rectal cancer treatments. 

Are Colon and Rectal Cancers Hereditary?

Our cancer genetic experts can help you and your family determine if they risk developing colorectal cancer. We offer cancer genetic counseling to patients in the Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA areas. Find out if you are at risk for hereditary colon cancer syndromes and if you should take advantage of the Genetic Risk Evaluation & Testing Program.

Should I Consider Colorectal Cancer Clinical Trials?

As a member of Sarah Cannon Research Institute (SCRI), a joint venture with US Oncology Research, Compass Oncology can provide patients access to the latest colon and rectal cancer clinical trials in the Portland-Vancouver areas. These clinical trials help uncover various new treatment options for colon and rectal cancers and give many patients the opportunity to receive newly developed therapies or investigational drugs not yet available outside the study.

Talk to your colorectal cancer doctor to find out if you are right for one of our cancer clinical trials.

Preparing for Your First Appointment

At your first oncology appointment, you are going to get a lot of information in a short period of time.

We strongly suggest that you bring a supportive relative or friend to this oncology appointment. Not only will this person serve as an extra set of "ears" to make sure you don't miss any details, but he or she will also be able to ask questions you may not think to ask and discuss the appointment with you after it's over. For additional information, read our recommendations for your first visit to Compass Oncology.

Here are some useful tips on how you can remember what you're told and keep track of questions you'd like to ask your colorectal cancer specialist.

Keep a Notebook

To stay organized, we suggest getting a notebook to take notes during each appointment and to keep a record of important information. This can include information such as how you’re feeling and what medicines or supplements you’re taking, to any questions, thoughts, or observations you have regarding appointments and procedures. Try to put a date on everything you log down.

If a method other than paper works better for you, then commit to using it regularly. Having information written down (and on hand) can help keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctors.

Questions to Ask Your Specialist

  • Is it colon cancer or rectal cancer?
  • Will I need more tests?
  • Am I going to need surgery?
  • Will you perform biomarker testing on the tumor?
  • Will I require a colostomy bag, and will it be permanent?
  • What options do I have for treating my colon or rectal cancer?
  • Do I need to change my diet now? During treatment?
  • Will cancer treatment affect my daily life?
  • What are the side effects of my recommended treatments?
  • Do my siblings or children have an increased risk of colon or rectal cancer?
  • Is it okay to exercise during treatments?
  • Will I need to see other medical specialists?

Find a Colon and Rectal Cancer Specialist in portland-vancouver

After Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Following colorectal cancer treatment, your doctors will want to monitor you closely. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. These visits give your doctor an opportunity to address your questions and concerns, look for treatment-related side effects, and discuss other follow-up treatments that may be necessary.

Should I Get a Second Opinion?

It is only natural that you want to be absolutely certain that you have colorectal cancer before beginning treatment. It's understandable that you may want to get a second opinion to make sure. There is no harm in doing that, and it will help you feel confident about your diagnosis. Our medical providers at Compass Oncology regularly provide second opinions for patients diagnosed with prostate and other cancers. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider to check your coverage before making an appointment. 

Watch the video below to learn about the importance of a second opinion for cancer diagnosis and treatment. The oncologists at Compass Oncology are available to discuss your test results, cancer diagnosis, and options for treatment.

Resources for Colorectal Cancer Patients: You're Not Alone

We know this is a difficult time, at Compass Oncology our team of oncologists and cancer care specialists is ready to help you every step of the way. We’re here to answer questions and connect you with your needed resources. There are plenty of people that can help you with your cancer treatment journey.

Colon and Rectal Cancer Specialists in Portland-Vancouver

We provide the most recent colorectal cancer treatments to patients at all of our cancer centers in the region. Choose one that's convenient for you to request a consultation. 

East Office

5050 NE Hoyt St., Suite 256, Portland, OR 97213 Near Providence Hospital

(503) 239-7767

Rose Quarter Cancer Center

265 N Broadway
Portland, OR 97227

(503) 280-1223

Vancouver Cancer Center

210 SE 136th Avenue,
Vancouver, WA 98684

(360) 944-9889

West Cancer Center

12123 SW 69th Avenue,
Tigard, OR 97223

(971) 708-7600