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VCU Massey Cancer Center


Colorectal cancer care at Massey

VCU Massey Cancer Center is Virginia’s leading resource for colorectal cancer screening and care. Our team provides comprehensive, coordinated and highly specialized care for patients with colon and rectal cancers, and performs therapeutic colonoscopies for patients with pre-cancerous polyps. We focus on each patient’s unique medical and social needs to provide the best possible outcomes combined with the highest quality of life once care is complete.

  • Overview

    Advanced, patient-centered colorectal cancer care

    We understand that a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for patients and their loved ones, which is why we strive to put the patient at the center of our care. At Massey, you are treated by a multidisciplinary team that focuses specifically on colorectal cancer. Colorectal surgeons work together with leading medical and radiation oncologists as well as genetic counselors, experts in pain and symptom management, dietitians, physical therapists, clinical researchers, social workers and many others to recommend a personalized care plan. A dedicated nurse navigator guides you and your family every step of the way. With this collaborative, patient-centered approach, you benefit from more experience and more insight — from diagnosis and care planning through treatment and survivorship.

    And because Massey is Richmond's only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, patients also have access to cutting-edge clinical trials and the most advanced treatment options available for colorectal cancer – science that is available here before other community providers.

    Hallmarks of Massey’s colorectal cancer care:

    Choose VCU Massey Cancer Center for colorectal cancer care that is:

    Our doctors have unparalleled knowledge and experience in diagnosing and treating all types of colorectal cancers and polyps (growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum) and cysts. We have new forms of surgical treatment that preserve the function of the bowel and rectum, and we offer advanced noninvasive procedures to determine how much cancer is present and how far it has spread.


    The colorectal cancer program at Massey offers an integrative approach with a full range of treatment options that support patients' strength and well-being while improving quality of life through treatment, recovery and survivorship. We also offer support services that range from helping minimize pain, symptoms and side effects to helping cope with the cognitive, emotional and psychological effects of cancer.


    Cancer care generally requires multiple forms of therapy and various specialized doctors and specialists, who work as a team to treat the patient. Massey pioneered the region’s , in which specialists from numerous medical backgrounds collaborate in teams to coordinate all aspects and stages of patient care – and conveniently provide that care in multiple locations. This approach ensures that patients will receive the ideal combination and sequence of treatment.


    Recognizing that each patient is unique and each type of cancer is different, Massey provides treatment strategies and care plans tailored and individualized to the patient. Patients also have direct access to a nurse navigator, who will provide guidance as they move through the health care system and treatment process.


    Through respectful, attentive and compassionate care, Massey’s care team builds healing relationships with patients that help reduce suffering from cancer. We recognize that each patient’s medical, social, emotional and personal needs are unique, which is why patients have access to resources such as social workers, psychologists, legal and financial assistance, support groups, educational workshops and more.

  • Treatment

    Comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment options

    Massey offers the full spectrum of advanced treatment options only available at large academic medical centers such as VCU Health. At Massey, one doctor does not decide your care. Instead, your personalized treatment plan is recommended by the region’s largest and most comprehensive multidisciplinary gastrointestinal cancer treatment team. A dedicated nurse navigator will guide you and your family through the treatment process to help reduce stress associated with coordinating care. 

    Most colorectal cancer patients require surgery to remove the tumor and may also receive chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy before and/or after surgery. Specific treatment plans and the sequence of care are recommended by your team based on a variety of health factors and personal preference.

    Treatments may include any of the following:

    Surgery - The aim of surgery is to remove the tumor. The extent of surgery will depend on whether the cancer has spread. When cancer develops from a polyp, the entire polyp is removed in a procedure called a polypectomy, which can often be performed at the same time as a colonoscopy. A colon resection is an operation that involves removing the cancer and a section of normal tissue on either side. Nearby lymph nodes are also removed during a colon resection.

    Usually, the healthy ends of the bowel are surgically reconnected at the time of the initial surgery. However, in some patients the doctor may need to create a temporary connection between the bowel and the wall of the abdomen. This is called a stoma or ostomy. A stoma can be fashioned from the small intestine, called an ileostomy, or the colon, called a colostomy. The stoma is typically temporary but in some patients, it may be permanent.

    Massey is also a leading expert in robotic-assisted surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System, which may allow for smaller incisions leading to a faster recovery. For some patients, laparoscopic surgery may also be an option. In laparoscopic surgery, several tiny incisions are made and a camera is used to guide the surgeon as they control the da Vinci Surgical System.  

    At Massey, we follow an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol in our care of patients before, during and after surgery. Through ERAS, our patients are actively involved in their own recovery process. Components of the program are:

    • Pain management. Each patient has a personalized pain management plan designed to limit the use of opioids (narcotics)
    • Early mobility and feeding. We help our patients begin to move and eat as soon after surgery as possible
    • Fluid management. We provide our patients with only as much IV fluid as they need to prevent fluid overload and bloating after surgery

    Following ERAS helps our patients recover faster, leave the hospital sooner and have fewer complications following surgery.

    Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat cancerous cells, most often by interfering with their ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. Studies have shown that chemotherapy after surgery can increase survival for some patients. Chemotherapy also can help relieve symptoms of advanced cancer.

    External radiation - A precise beam of radiation is directed at the cancer cells from outside of the body using a linear accelerator. In order to protect the surrounding healthy tissue, special shields may be used. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes. Side effects are typically mild but may include sensitivity and redness similar to a sunburn at the treatment site.

    Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) - Massey is one of few cancer care providers in Virginia to offer HIPEC. HIPEC is a complex procedure reserved for patients with advanced abdominal cancers. It involves surgery to remove as much of the tumor or tumors as possible, followed by the circulation of a heated chemotherapy solution throughout the abdominal cavity. The chemotherapy solution helps kill any remaining cancer cells and reduces the risk of cancer recurrence. There is substantial evidence showing HIPEC is an effective treatment for several cancers affecting the abdominal region.

    Radiation therapy - Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy. There are two ways to deliver radiation therapy to the site of the cancer:

    • Brachytherapy is a form of internal radiation therapy delivered inside the body as close to the cancer as possible. Substances that produce radiation, called radioisotopes, are positioned close to or implanted directly in the tumor. Brachytherapy often allows doctors to deliver higher doses of radiation while limiting radiation exposure to other organs. In some cases, brachytherapy is used to supplement or “boost” external radiation therapy.
    • Immunotherapies stimulate the patient’s own immune system to attack cancer in various ways. This is a new and promising type of cancer treatment, and because of this many therapies are only available through participation in clinical trials.

    Targeted therapies - Also known as “precision cancer care,” new drugs are being developed that target specific genetic mutations known to cause cancer. Massey was the first cancer care provider in Virginia to perform DNA sequencing for the treatment of cancer, and we continue to stay at the forefront of precision cancer care.

    Clinical trials - Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate new medical treatments and devices and increase scientific understanding of a wide variety of diseases. Massey has one of the largest clinical trial portfolios in Virginia, which means our patients have access to new and promising treatments before they are made available to community providers.

  • Specialists

    Our experts specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of colon and rectal cancer, and work together at multiple highly collaborative clinic locations. This leads to improved outcomes and better quality of life, especially for patients with advanced or rare cancers, and the convenience of all of your specialists at multiple locations.

    Our doctors are also engaged in clinical research and teaching, which means they are always working to find new and better ways to treat cancer.

    Colorectal surgery

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    Jaime  Bohl, M.D.
    Chief of colorectal surgery at Massey Cancer Center and VCU Health
    More info about Jaime Bohl

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    Emily  Rivet, M.D.
    More info about Emily Rivet

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    Stephen  Sharp, M.D.
    More info about Stephen Sharp

    Image - Nicole Wieghard, M.D. [View Image]

    Nicole  Wieghard, M.D.
    More info about Nicole Wieghard

    Massey’s colorectal surgeons are double board certified in General Surgery and Colorectal Surgery. Dr. Rivet has an additional certification in Palliative Care. They are are faculty from the Division of Colorectal Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.


    Surgical Oncology

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    Leopoldo   Fernandez, M.D.
    More info about Leopoldo Fernandez

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    Brian  Kaplan, M.D.
    More info about Brian Kaplan

    Massey’s surgical oncologists are faculty from the Division of Surgical Oncology in the Department of Surgery at the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.


    Medical oncology

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    Khalid  Matin, M.D.
    More info about Khalid Matin

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    Jennifer  Myers, M.D.
    More info about Jennifer Myers

    Massey’s medical oncologists are on faculty in the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care in the Department of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.


    Radiation Oncology

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    Emma  Fields, M.D.
    Fields is on faculty in the Department of Radiation Oncology of VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.
    More info about Emma Fields


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    John  Kuemmerle, M.D.
    More info about John Kuemmerle

    Massey’s endoscopists are on faculty in the in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition in the Department of Internal Medicine of the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.



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    Laura  Carruci, M.D.
    Carruci is on faculty in the Department of Radiology of the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.


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    Melissa  Contos, M.D.
    More info about Melissa Contos

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    Michael  Idowu, M.D.
    More info about Michael Idowu

    Massey’s pathologists are faculty from the Department of Pathology of the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.


    Genetic counseling

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    John  Quillin, Ph.D., C.G.C.
    More info about John Quillin

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    Heather  Creswick, M.S., C.G.C.
    More info about Heather Creswick

    Massey’s genetic counselors are faculty in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics of the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.



    Annette  Dean, R.N.

    Joelle King, R.N.
    Nurse navigator

  • Research

    At VCU Massey Cancer Center, patients gain access to the most advanced therapies and the latest technologies. Some of these therapies were discovered and developed right here at Massey, where our doctors collaborate closely with our research scientists to bring new research breakthroughs to patients in the form of clinical trials.

    Clinical trials are research studies that help the medical community discover new and better ways to prevent, diagnose, treat and cure diseases. With one of the largest menus of cancer clinical trials in Virginia, we offer patients expanded treatment options and new hope every day.

    Find a clinical trial

  • Resources

    Support services

    At VCU Massey Cancer Center, we believe that treating the whole person, not just the disease, is the best way to care for patients and family members coping with cancer. We take a holistic approach to address not just your medical and physical needs, but also your psychological, emotional and social needs. We offer comprehensive cancer support services to care for you throughout your cancer journey that range from helping minimize symptoms and side effects to helping evaluate and cope with the emotional and psychological effects of cancer. These services include:

    Communication assistance

    Integrative health resources, including acupressure, art therapy, music therapy, pet therapy and tobacco cessation counseling. Complementary therapies are not substitutes for medical care but are used together with medical treatments to help patients alleviate stress and anxiety, reduce pain, manage symptoms and promote a feeling of well-being.

    Financial assistance for qualifying patients in need

    • Genetic counseling by board-certified genetic counselors in Richmond’s only Familial Cancer Clinic

    Healing garden

    Legal assistance for qualifying patients in need

    Lodging for qualifying patients in need

    • Nutritionists

    Palliative care by an international award-winning team for the management of pain and symptoms, including an outpatient Supportive Care Clinic

    • Patient education, including libraries and health programming geared to cancer patients and their caregivers

    Pharmacy services, including in-hospital oncology pharmacies

    • Psychological counseling

    Rehabilitation by one of the nation’s longest-running cancer rehabilitation programs with physical, occupational and speech therapy especially geared for cancer patients

    • Spiritual counseling

    Social work for patients in need

    Support groups
         •Another, external resource: Cullather Brain Tumor Quality Life Center

    • Transportation assistance for qualifying patients in need – ask your social worker for more information

    Wig salons that provide free hats, scarves and wigs as well as private head-wear consultation services

    Learn more about our patient resources and integrative medicine

Request an appointment

or call: 877-4MASSEY

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Research highlight

In preclinical experiments, VCU Massey Cancer Center researchers developed a vaccine to prevent colorectal cancer.

[View Image] Why consider a clinical trial

Treatments in clinical trials may be more effective or have fewer side effects than the treatments that are currently available. Learn more about clinical trials »

Learn more:

Massey expands colorectal cancer team, preventative services and treatment options

The genetics of colorectal cancer


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Patient Stories

"If I had one piece of advice for people, it would be to get screened when you’re supposed to.” Read Anita Whitlow’s story of colorectal cancer survival."

Featured video

Colorectal surgery: what to expect

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