It's understandable to have a lot of questions after receiving a diagnosis of colon or rectal cancer, also known as colorectal cancer. The team at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute put together this guide to help you understand your particular diagnosis, who is on the care team and prepare for your first medical oncology appointment. If you're in Willamette Valley or along the Oregon Coast, our team is available for a consultation.
To help make treatment decisions about your colorectal cancer, it’s helpful to first consult with a medical oncologist. Patients of Willamette Valley Cancer Institute (WVCI) have access to cancer specialists who are up-to-date on the best ways to treat colon or rectal cancer.
The medical oncologist is typically the leader of the colorectal cancer treatment process. He or she will spend time with you after reviewing test results so they can determine the cancer location, the size of the tumor, and whether it has spread (metastasized). They will also consult with other physicians who are typically part of the treatment process, including a surgeon and radiation oncologist.
Together, they can develop the best treatment plan and timing of the treatments for your particular situation.
Colorectal cancer is staged from 0 to IV, representing its extent. Stage 0 is non-invasive and localized, while stage IV indicates cancer has spread outside of the colon or rectum. Your oncologist will use biopsy results and images to determine the extent of your cancer. Learn about the staging process for colon and rectal cancers.
Your specific treatment for colorectal cancer depends on factors such as the cancer stage. We recommend that you take some time to make informed decisions and discuss any questions you may have with your oncologist, but don’t delay starting treatment. Here are common treatments for colon and rectal cancers.
Our genetic counselors provide guidance to help you and your family evaluate whether a cancer diagnosis may have been caused by an inherited genetic change. If you're in the Willamette Valley or Oregon coast areas, find out if you should consider consulting with a genetics expert via telehealth appointment at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute. Our counselors will be able to help you with questions you have about the genetics of colorectal cancer through a virtual meeting.
WVCI can access the latest clinical trials at several of its locations. These colon and rectal cancer clinical trials help uncover various new treatment options, including new colorectal cancer treatments, and allow many patients to receive newly developed therapies or investigational drugs not yet available outside the study.
If you feel as though a clinical trial is something you’d be interested in, talk with your oncologist to determine if you would make a good candidate.
During your first oncology appointment, there will be a lot of information to process. Your cancer care team will give more details about your condition and discuss their general plan for treating it. Because of this, you should bring a notebook or recording device so you don’t miss anything important. We also recommend that you bring a friend or family member along with you. In addition to providing support, they can serve as an extra set of ears and ask questions you might not think to ask. This can help you better understand your illness and what to expect during treatment. Below are some questions we recommend you bring up during your first oncology visit.
For additional information, visit our Preparing For Your First Oncology Visit page.
As a cancer patient, you’ll receive a lot of information from your oncologist, which can be hard to remember. To stay organized and ensure you don’t forget things, we recommend you purchase a notebook or binder that can be used for notetaking at each of your visits. It’s an easy and effective way to jot down your questions and concerns when you’re away from the office and to keep track of medications, scheduled appointments, doctor’s instructions, etc.
If you're worried that you'll miss important information while you're taking notes or a written notebook just isn’t ideal for you, you might want to record conversations with your physician (many smartphones have a recording feature) and write down the important information in your notebook later.
It's important to make good, informed decisions without delay. However, it’s wise to take a little time to listen to your doctor's recommended cancer treatment plan and address any questions or concerns you may have. Your first step is to schedule an appointment with a gastrointestinal or colorectal cancer specialist. You also have time to get a second opinion.
It is important for you to feel confident in your decision and comfortable with the cancer specialists who will be taking care of you throughout this experience. Getting a second opinion can give you the peace of mind you need before starting the treatment process.
Second opinions for those diagnosed with colorectal cancer are available at WVCI. We will review the diagnosis itself and the treatment options recommended. Many 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. To schedule a second opinion with one of our oncologists, choose one of our locations that is most convenient to you before contacting us to schedule an appointment.
A common concern of patients is how they will pay for their colorectal cancer treatment. This is totally understandable! If you have insurance, at least some of your colorectal cancer treatment should be covered by your policy. Every policy is different, and every patient's recommended course of treatment will be unique. We are contracted with most major insurers, but we also have financial counselors available to work through individual financial situations.
Please contact our office to verify that our cancer care providers are participating in your health plan. You can also learn more by visiting our Insurance and Financial Counselors page.
The cancer care team at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute is dedicated to assisting patients every step of the way during this difficult time. We’re here to answer questions and connect you with the resources you need. This includes support services that address the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of patients.