Colon Cancer Treatment

Dr. Mayo and registered nurse Rachel Shafer together greet a patient at the South Waterfront clinic.
Dr. Skye Mayo (left), with registered nurse, Rachel Schafer (middle), is one of our expert surgeons for cancers of the digestive system.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute offers treatments and clinical trials you won’t find anywhere else in Oregon or Southwest Washington.

You can expect:

  • Advanced treatments
  • Team care, with specialists meeting weekly to discuss options
  • Experts who bring you skills and compassion
  • Care tailored to your unique needs

Learn about our care for rectal cancer.


Our surgeons are experts in saving nerves and tissues linked to sexual function, bowel control and bladder control.

If you have early-stage cancer, surgery may be the only treatment you need. We use minimally invasive surgery when possible.

Sometimes we use an endoscope. This long, flexible instrument has a camera, light and other tools. Or we may use laparoscopic surgery, with small cuts and tiny tools. This results in less pain and faster recovery.

Surgery types

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection: Liquid is injected under a polyp to separate it from the colon’s surface. The surgeon can remove it without taking out any of your colon.
  • Endoscopic submucosal dissection: Your surgeon removes cancers just below the surface by carefully cutting the top tissue layers.
  • Colectomy: The surgical team removes a section of your colon, and then reconnects your digestive tract.

If a section of your colon is removed, your surgical team will provide one of these:

  • Colostomy: This surgery creates an opening in the belly called a stoma and attaches it to your colon. A pouch outside your body collects stool. At OHSU, you’ll find nurses with special training to help you with all aspects of ostomy care. You can still take part in any activity.
  • Ileostomy: This is like a colostomy. Your surgeon connects the lowest part of your small intestine, called the ileum, to the opening in your belly.

We also offer:

  • Hepatic arterial infusion, which treats colon cancer that has spread to the liver. We implant a small pump that delivers chemotherapy right to the liver.
  • HIPEC surgery, which can help if you have advanced colon cancer. Surgeons remove tumors, then place chemotherapy inside the belly.
A three-panel drawing showing colon cancer surgery with colostomy. The first panel shows the area of the colon with cancer. The middle panel shows the cancer and nearby tissue removed and a stoma (opening) created. The last panel shows a colostomy bag attached to the stoma.
This illustration shows a colostomy. First, the part of the colon with cancer is removed along with nearby healthy tissue. Next, the surgeon creates a stoma, or opening, in the belly. The stoma is connected to a colostomy bag outside the body to collect stool.


We use the latest medications and approaches to kill or stop cancer. For advanced colon cancer, we may recommend chemotherapy after surgery to keep the disease from coming back. Most often, chemotherapy is given in an IV drip.

    Targeted therapy

    We identify genetic “targets” in your tumor. Medications can match the target, like a key fitting into a lock.

    The Knight is a pioneer in targeted therapy, destroying cancer cells while leaving healthy cells mostly alone. Targeted medications are given by IV drip or pill to:

    • Keep tumors from forming new blood vessels, shutting off nutrients
    • Attack a protein cancer cells need to grow
    • Block signals that tell a cancer cell to grow or form blood vessels

    Radiation therapy

    Radiation therapy uses energy beams to destroy cancer cells. We are regional leaders in image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). 

    You may have radiation therapy:

    • Before surgery: This can shrink the cancer so it’s easier to take out.
    • After surgery: This destroys remaining cancer cells to keep cancer from spreading or coming back. 
    • With chemotherapy: A combination can sometimes replace surgery.
    • For late-stage cancers: Radiation therapy can relieve pain. Stereotactic body radiation therapy lets us safely give a high dose to targeted areas.


    Immunotherapy uses your body’s immune system to fight cancer. Medications called “checkpoint inhibitors” can stop cancer cells from sending signals that hide them from the immune system. The immune system sees the cancer and goes on the attack.

    Only some colon cancers respond to immunotherapy. At the Knight, genetic tests can help us see if immunotherapy might help you.

    Clinical trials

    Clinical trials test new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer in humans. The Knight is a leader offering patients access to innovative and promising therapies. 

    Additional services

    Learn more about resources and support services at the Knight

    Learn more

    For patients

    Call 503-494-7999 to:

    • Request an appointment
    • Seek a second opinion
    • Ask questions


    Knight Cancer Institute, South Waterfront

    Center for Health & Healing, Building 2
    3485 S. Bond Ave.
    Portland, OR 97239

    Free parking for patients and visitors

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    Cancer clinical trials

    Clinical trials allow patients to try a new test or treatment.

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