Comprehensive Care for Colorectal Cancer

A multidisciplianry team, including radiation oncolgy, surgical oncology, and medical oncology, are essential to maximize patient outcomes.

At the Saint John’s Cancer Institute, in Santa Monica, California, we are constantly testing new therapies and diagnostic methods for colorectal cancers.

Our patients have access to the latest, groundbreaking clinical trials, experimental treatments, and diagnostic approaches not widely available at other hospitals such as genomic sequencing. If a clinical trial is right for you, we may offer to participate in a clinical trial as a treatment option.


It is our goal to always provide the best and most comprehensive care for colorectal cancer. Treating colon or rectal cancers usually requires a multidisciplinary team of experts; a surgical oncologist, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and a pathologist to identify subtle characteristics of your disease, and to provide an accurate diagnosis for the best treatment options and outcomes.

Healthgrades’ 2023 surgical award for Saint John’s Health Center

Another goal is to do all we can to preserve your quality of life during treatment. We do that by using minimally invasive surgical procedures including laparoscopic and robotic surgery, highly precise radiation therapy techniques, and chemotherapy regimens that are designed to provide you with the best chance to control or cure your cancer and allow you to maintain your quality of life as much as possible.

Our surgical oncologists are training the next generation of surgeons in minimally invasive robotic surgery, preparing tomorrow’s experts in a multidisciplinary, advanced surgical approach to care. Saint Johns has been recognized as Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals for Surgical Care.

Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Surgery

Surgery is the most common and effective treatment for colorectal cancer, especially if the cancer has not spread. Our surgeons are regarded among the top specialists in the country, having helped establish national standards for the treatment of colorectal cancer. They have developed novel methods to improve staging accuracy; they published the first randomized trial ever evaluating staging methods in colon cancer. Colorectal cancer may be treated with surgery alone, surgery and chemotherapy, and/or other treatments, such as immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation.

Minimally Invasive Laparoscopic or Robotic Colorectal Cancer Surgery

Robot-assisted minimally invasive techniques use smaller incisions that result in faster recovery and shorter hospital stays.

Minimally invasive surgery, or robotic surgery, allows the surgeon to perform highly intricate maneuvers in a smaller space, which is less intrusive on the body. During minimally invasive surgery, only small incisions are needed, where a tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted while the surgeon uses high-resolution video imaging to perform the surgery.

In nearly all circumstances, our doctors guide our patients away from traditional open surgery to minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic surgery when possible. Minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery has become a standard of care due to its many benefits. Its main benefit: it does not impinge on our patient’s quality of life.

Benefits of a minimally-invasive appraoch include:
  • Less pain
  • Less time recovering in the hospital
  • Fewer complications if any (risk of complication depends on your general health).
  • Less traumatic on the body
  • Smaller instruments are 10 times more sensitive and dexterous
  • More precise to preserve nerves and surrounding tissue
  • Patients return to daily activities sooner, as there is less recovery time

Types of Surgery:

Partial Colectomy

Partial colectomy and resection of the colon - saint johns cancer institute
In partial colectomy, one or more parts of the colon are removed surgically then rejoined.

Involves removing part of the colon and can be called a subtotal colectomy. During surgery, our surgeons may remove a margin of normal tissue on either side of the cancer. The colon is then reconnected to the rectum.

Total Colectomy

Involves removing the entire colon. Additional surgery for a stoma and ostomy bag usually occurs after a total colectomy, and recovery time can take up to 8 weeks.


Involves removing the right or left side of the colon.


Involves removing partial or all of the colon as well as the rectum.


Involves removing polyps during a colonoscopy. If your cancer is small, localized, completely contained within a polyp and in a very early stage, your doctor may be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy.

Endoscopic Mucosal Resection

Larger polyps might be removed during colonoscopy using special tools to remove the polyp and a small amount of the inner lining of the colon in a procedure called an endoscopic mucosal resection.

Chemotherapy for Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

Treating your colorectal cancer may involve the most up-to-date and effective chemotherapy available. Drugs are given either orally or intravenously. Depending on the tumor’s biology and how advanced the cancer is, chemotherapy may be given either before surgery, after surgery, or both.

Chemotherapy may be used to help:

  • Shrink the tumors before surgery
  • Reduce the likelihood of cancer recurrence after surgery
  • Prolong life when surgery is not an option

Radiation Therapy for Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

Radiation therapy may be used before, after, or during surgery. Many advances in radiation therapy for colorectal cancers have been used to shrink the tumor or to kill any cancer after the initial surgery.

Advanced Radiation treatments

Dr. Robert Wollman, Radiation Oncologists with the Varian Edge Linac
Dr. Robert Wollman, Board-certified Radiation Oncologist at Saint John’s Health Center, stands next to the Varian Edge Linear Accelerator
3D-conformal radiation therapy:

Several radiation beams are given in the exact shape of the tumor.

Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT):

External beam treatment uses CT and other imaging methods to precisely target the treatment area.

Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT):

External beam treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the tumor to reduce damage to normal tissue.


Is used less often than external beam radiation to treat colon and rectal cancer. Using tiny radioactive “seeds,” this targeted method delivers a precise dose of radiation directly into or near the tumor.

Targeted Therapies for Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

We offer targeted therapies for certain types of colorectal cancer. Using innovative new drugs we work to stop the growth of cancer cells.

Certain proteins, receptors, and blood vessels help the spread of cancer. Targeted therapies attack these proteins, receptors, and blood vessels by inhibiting their growth and spread. Targeted therapies destroy cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue.

Targeted therapies are typical for advanced diseases, and/or genetic diseases to stop cancer growth.

Immunotherapy for Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

Immunotherapy - attacking cancer cell
Immunotherapy for Colon Cancer: Saint John’s translational immunology program supports optimized clinical outcomes.

Immunotherapy treatments use the body’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells from spreading. Immunotherapies have been shown to stop recurrence after the tumor is surgically removed and are typically used for advanced diseases.

Immunotherapy treatments are continually being tested at Saint John’s Cancer Institute. At any point during treatment, you can ask if there are clinical trials you can enroll in. Clinical trials offer the latest treatment options available.

Call today to learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer. Our multi-disciplinary team is ready to support you.

If you have questions regarding Colorectal Cancer or treatment, please call today. Click here to request an appointment.