Duke’s colorectal cancer specialists use the latest medical and surgical advances to detect and treat rectal cancer at the earliest possible stage. We are conveniently located in Raleigh and Durham, and have the advanced training and expertise to perform sphincter-sparing procedures that remove anal tumors while reducing your chance of having a permanent colostomy. We give you the personalized care you need to maximize your quality of life and your health.
Advanced Care for Rectal Cancer
If you or a loved one is concerned about rectal cancer, you need an experienced and skilled health care team. Our colorectal doctors and surgeons work closely with rectal cancer patients every day. Our researchers are recognized experts in identifying rectal cancer tumors.
We are leaders in testing new cancer treatment options, including the development of the targeted therapy Avastin, which shrinks tumors and extends survival in patients with colon cancer that has spread. We continue to test new therapies and explore genomics so we can provide you with more personalized treatment options.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Finding rectal cancer early and obtaining an accurate diagnosis is key to your health. Several methods are used to detect and diagnose rectal cancers.
Digital Rectal Exam
A physical exam during which your physician will check for abnormal growths.
Blood and Stool Tests
Detecting rectal cancer requires a combination of stool tests, which look for blood in the stool, and blood tests, which look for certain antigens.
A camera at the tip of a flexible plastic tube is inserted in the rectum to evaluate the lower part of the colon.
A longer version of sigmoidoscopy that lets doctors view the entire colon.
Double-Contrast Barium Enema
The lower part of the colon is coated with barium liquid, then drained and filled with air. This makes the area visible on X-rays so doctors can look for cancer and other abnormalities.
Produces high-definition images inside the rectum and surrounding structures. Images are generated via a long tube inserted into the rectum, combined with high-frequency ultrasound waves. The technology is used to detect, remove, and sometimes biopsy polyps, tissue, and suspicious lesions and cancerous masses.
Noninvasive imaging techniques -- including MRI, PET, and CT colonography (also known as virtual colonoscopy) -- may be used to look inside the rectum to identify tumors and polyps.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cancer program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.
Why Choose Duke
We routinely use high-resolution imaging scopes to create clearer colonoscopy images that better detect and allow for removal of polyps and cancer not seen with standard colonoscopy.
As a first-time patient here, you will undergo a thorough, day-long evaluation and consultation. You will leave with a comprehensive cancer treatment plan that meets your needs. We can expedite the process even further if you bring with you the results of scans or blood work that were performed prior to your visit. If you need additional imaging or testing, we have conveniently located these services within our facilities.
A Nationally Ranked Program
We are a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and are part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers dedicated to improving care for our patients.
Targeted Radiation Treatments
Sophisticated technology allows us to better target the maximum dose of radiation directly to your tumor while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. Because radiation is delivered more precisely, fewer treatments are needed.
Enhanced Recovery Reduces Hospital Stays and Readmissions
Our enhanced recovery program minimizes pre-operative fasting, encourages immediate post-operative physical rehabilitation, and incorporates specialized pain management to reduce the stress of colon surgery. Duke research shows that this enhanced recovery approach decreases post-operative complication rates and reduces the length of hospital stays.
A Comforting Environment
Our Duke Cancer Center features spacious waiting areas, a Quiet Room, large infusion rooms, and a rooftop garden where patients -- if their cancer treatment regimen permits -- can receive chemotherapy outdoors.
Access to Clinical Trials
You may be able to participate in our ongoing clinical trials, which test new anti-cancer targeted therapies, new surgical approaches, and new ways to minimize patient concerns and cancer-related symptoms. Participating in a clinical trial may afford you access to new treatment approaches before they become widely available.
More Minimally Invasive Options
Nearly 80 percent of surgeries are performed with a small lighted tube called a laparoscope, which is inserted in the body through small incisions. This minimally invasive method is used to identify and sometimes remove tumors. As a result, you are likely to experience smaller wounds, less pain and scarring, lower risk of infection, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster recovery.
A Team of Specialists
Our rectal cancer specialists -- medical, radiation, and surgical oncologists; gastroenterologists; radiologists; pathologists; geneticists; specially trained nurses; nutritionists; and social workers -- meet regularly to discuss your care, collect opinions, and offer coordinated and advanced surgical, medical, and follow-up care for your cancer treatment.
Hereditary Cancer Clinic
If you are at high risk for or have a family history of rectal cancer, you may want to work with the genetic counselors in our hereditary cancer clinic to identify and reduce your risk.
Support for You and Your Family
Our comprehensive support services range from helping patients minimize the side effects of cancer treatment to coping with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. View all of our cancer support groups in our event calendar.