The treatment of colon cancer depends on the stage of the disease. The three basic options for colon cancer include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. You can also check out info on colon cancer symptoms.
Surgery is typically recommended to treat early stage cancers, and is often completely curative. The extent of surgery depends on the location and stage of the cancer. Sometimes surgery is performed as a palliative measure to relieve complete obstruction of the colon.
When the cancer is in the early stages, the surgeon generally removes the entire tumor along with the affected lymph nodes. The remaining bowel is re-connected. When surgery is done to relieve obstruction, the surgeon may not be able to reconnect the two ends of the bowel and you may end up with a colostomy (either permanent or temporary).
A colostomy is simply bringing out a piece of bowel loop and creating an opening on the skin. An appliance bag is then placed over the stoma where fecal material will be collected. In most cases, colostomy is created along the left side of the lower abdomen. Temporary colostomies are generally reversed in about 3-4 months.
In some cases, when only a small polyp is identified in the colon, the physician may remove the entire polyp using colonoscopy. This is commonly done when the polyp is small and the cancer is in the very early stages. The specimen is examined under a microscope to ensure that the entire cancer has been removed.
Whenever colon cancer has spread, chemotherapy is used to treat the disease, either alone or in addition to surgery. A multitude of chemotherapeutic drugs and a variety of dosages can be used to affect the patient with the least amount of toxicity. Nevertheless, the side effects of these drugs include nausea, vomiting, general malaise, hair loss, and mouth ulcers.
Radiation is not used to treat early colon cancer but is often combined with chemotherapy when the tumor has spread or recurred. Radiation therapy sessions are administered 1-2 times a week for 6 weeks. Side effects of radiation include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, general malaise, and diarrhea.
TARGETED DRUG THERAPY
In the last few years, targeted drug therapy has been developed to destroy cancer cells. Drugs like bevacizumab and cetuximab are often combined with traditional chemotherapeutic drugs. These drugs prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
After any type of treatment for colon cancer, regular CT scan/colonoscopy is done to ensure that the cancer has not come back.
The treatment for colon cancer is multidisciplinary and involves a combination of oncologists, surgeons and radiation therapists. Each case of colon cancer requires a unique treatment plan.