Treatment Options of Colon Cancer

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Learning about the treatment of colon cancer according to the stages helps understand the choices of treatment the patient has. However these options need to be discussed with the doctor first for the pros and cons before signing up for a particular treatment. Thorough research is also needed to understand what you’re going to be up for.

The treatment options would be depending on the stage of cancer and would be based on the patient’s general health; however there is a lot more the doctors have to keep in consideration before reaching a final decision.

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The Doctor’s Consideration

In addition to communicating with your doctor and digging for details, it is better to go prepared so you could talk about the procedure and also know what made them choose for you what they did.

The doctors in general plan the treatment keeping the following considerations in mind:

  1. The type of bowel cancer you have
  2. The size of the cancer and the intensity and speed of its growth (the stage of cancer)
  3. The general health (fitness and immunity)
  4. The grade of the cancer
  5. A doctor would essentially seek second opinion from a team of health professionals, prior to a major decision such as surgical excision of the tumor.

You can always have a second opinion from another health professional or a surgeon to ensure the treatment chosen for you is the most suitable one. Remember, you might meet some other patients receiving a slightly different procedure; that would be because some of the factors pertaining to the decision may be different from your own.

The Treatment Choices

A panel of health professionals and surgeons all decide together to prescribe a treatment for the colon cancer patient after examining the stage of cancer, the intensity of its growth and the risks associated with it. It is also examined how the tumor is impeding the normal functionality of the organs.

A Colon cancer patient’s case is studied by a team of surgeons, oncologists, gastroenterologist and a radiation oncologist to decide for the suitable treatment.

The team may also consist of physician assistants, pharmacists, oncology nurses, counselors and dietitians to study the case and come up with a decision about the treatment to be given to a colon cancer patient.

The treatment options for a colon cancer patient are:

Surgery

The surgery is a major treatment for the removal of cancer from the colon or rectum. This is one of the most common treatments of cancers and is also known as surgical resection. In a surgical excision, the part of colon and lymph nodes which are healthy would also be removed in the procedure since they are at a high risk of being contaminated with the remain of the disease. The type of surgery mainly depends upon the stage of cancer and the location in the body.

Following are the major types of surgery:

a) Polypectomy

In this surgical procedure, a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum, which is a long tubular instrument with a camera on its end that views the inner cavity of the colon and rectum and any polyp or growth could be identified by it. With the identification, a scissor like tool then, remove the polyp from colon/ rectum.

b) Colectomy

In the procedure of colectomy, the area of the colon where the cancer is prevalent is removed but not only that, the healthy surrounding tissues are also removed the procedure. There is nothing to worry about the functionality of colon since the parts of the colon are joined later in the surgery.

Some of the surgical options for the removal of the tumor are:

1. Laparoscopic Surgery

The laparoscopic surgery is the technique which involves several viewing scopes passed into the abdomen (the patient is given anesthesia for it). Small incisions are made for the removal of tumor, which is less time consuming than the colon surgery conducted for the same purpose. Surgeons that conduct laparoscopy are specially trained in it.

2. Radiofrequency Ablation

In case the cancer has spread through different organs such as liver or lungs, the removal becomes highly essential as it were in colon. Some people have surgery for the removal of cancer from other organs where the tumor has spread but not everyone has the fitness for surgery and other factors allowing it. Thus, radiofrequency is the technique used for the removal of tumor. Sometimes, Radiofrequency Ablation could be done during surgery while in other cases it would be done through skin. This treatment has a risk of the cancer being left behind in the organs.

3. Colostomy

This is the treatment procedure conducted for rectal cancer and this involves a surgical opening which connects the abdominal surface to the colon so the waste could be carried out in a pouch (which would be carried by the patient). It is temporary while it could be the permanent solution for some of the patients.

Side Effects of the Surgery are:

  • Pain in the operated area
  • Tenderness in the area of operation
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Irritation around the stomach

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is done through high energy x-rays that kill the cancerous cells in the affected area. More than colon cancer, this treatment is commonly used for rectal cancer. Radiation therapy comprises of a series of treatments administered over a set course of time decided by the radiation oncologist.

1. Stereotactic Radiation Therapy

Stereotactic radiation therapy is aimed towards the organs affected by the colon cancer such as liver or lungs. This procedure gives a precise dosage through the external-beam radiation therapy to the small area where the tumor has spread. This helps prevent the removal of adjacent healthy tissues which would have been removed through the surgery.

2. External-beam Radiation Therapy

This treatment is given to the patient at least five days a week for several weeks, at a doctor’s office or a hospital (depending on the stage of colon cancer and condition of the patient).

3. Intraoperative Radiation Therapy

The intraoperative radiation therapy involves a high dose of radiation therapy (one dose) which is given to the patient at the time of the surgery.

4. Chemoradiation Therapy

This procedure is a mixture of chemotherapy and radiation therapy which is used as a treatment for rectal cancer mainly. The addition of chemotherapy enhances the effectiveness of radiation therapy.

5. Barchytherapy

This therapy uses radioactive seeds which are planted inside the body to cure the cancer. In a type of barchytherapy, a radioactive substance known as yttrium-90 is injected into the liver to treat colon cancer.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy are:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin reactions (not severe)
  • Loose bowel movements
  • Upset stomach
  • Bleeding through rectum
  • Decline in sexual desire
  • Fertility issues

Chemotherapy

One of the most widely used treatments for cancer is chemotherapy. It is done through the use of drugs to destroy the cancerous cells present in a particular area of the body.

Chemotherapy not only destroys the already present cancer cells but also hinder their growth and division. The treatment is done by a professional medical oncologist since there is a need for specialization to determine the dosage etc.

In simpler terms, the dose reaches the bloodstream which reaches the affected region and then destroys the cancerous cells throughout the body.

There are a number of cycles over a set period of time decided by the doctor. An oral pill or an injectable is given to the patient for the treatment.

There are types of chemotherapy specified for colon cancer, such as:

  • Flurouacil (5-FU, Adrucil)
  • Irinotecan
  • Panitumumab (Vectibix)
  • Zaltrap (Ziv- aflibercept
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Capecitabine (Xeloda)

These doses are set and a combination is made by the doctor depending on the stage of the cancer, the grade and the overall health of the patient.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss (Less likely in case of colorectal cancer)
  • Neuropathy

Chemotherapy also helps shrink the cancer to be removed easily with surgery, and also is conducted as a post surgery treatment to prevent the recurrence of cancer.

It is also used to prolong the life of the patient when surgical excision could not be conducted for some reason.

Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies involve the use of medicine that interfere with proteins, genes, tissue environment and blood vessels or other receptors(whichever contribute to the growth and division of cancer cells); which then hinder the growth of cancer cells and limits the cancer to the area where it has already grown.

Some of the targeted therapies for colon cancer treatment are:

1. Anti-angiogenesis Therapy

It targets the angiogenesis (the process of making new blood vessels) and stops the tumor from growing and spreading to other parts of the body. Since cancer needs nutrients delivered by the blood vessels, impeding that would stop the tumor from spreading too.

2. Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Inhibitors

It is a type of targeted therapy that uses drugs to slow down the growth of colon cancer. Since the drugs that block EGFR are effective for slowing cancer cell growth, it is used and is said to be effective for colon cancer patients.

Side effects of Targeted Therapies are:

  • Rash on the face
  • Rash on the upper body

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Care for Side Effects

Overall it is important to get yourself treated immediately with the appropriate treatment methods, and also when discussing the treatment options and dosages with your doctor, discuss about the overall side effects of the dosage given through chemotherapy or radiation.

After knowing in detail, would a patient be able to be well adjusted with the idea of side effects striking after the treatment procedure begins, thus it would have less impact on the psychological well being (which is already fragile when diagnosed with cancer), rather than being struck with a sudden explosion of side effects pertaining to the therapeutic treatment given for colon cancer.

Taking care of the side effects is no doubt an important aspect during the cancer treatment just like in any of the therapies mentioned above.

Emotional and physical support, both are required by a person battling with colon cancer and not only with the side effects but also after the disease is cured, the lurking emotional disruptions should be taken care of.

The physical, emotional and social needs are to be well taken care of in such a vulnerable condition when patients often start losing hope.

Palliative Care

It is the term which involves any treatment that is done to reduce the impact of cancer treatment, the intensity of the symptoms and improves the overall quality of life.

This does not need a specific age, gender or stage of cancer since a cancer patient can receive regardless of any of the classifications based on the condition of disease.

Palliative care includes:

  • Medication
  • Nutritional change
  • Relaxation therapies and techniques
  • Emotional support
  • Various other therapies aimed at the well being of the patient, both, emotionally and physically while he/she gets treated for the cancer.

These treatments widely vary in nature, but all of them are aimed at providing support and care throughout the treatment period for cancer.

Research is constantly ongoing to come up with prevention and cure for colon cancer, new results such as proton therapy and other ways are being researched on to shrink the cancer to make it easily removable by surgery.

Also, researchers are working on ways to prevent the chances of recurrence of cancer because in majority of the cases it gets more severe the second time the body is hit by cancer whether in the local area or a distant region of the body.