What's the treatment for colon cancer?
Different types of treatment are available for patients with colon cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials . Before starting treatment, patients may want to think about taking
part in a clinical trial. Three types of standard treatment are used. These include the following:
Surgery is the most common treatment for all stages of colon cancer. A doctor may remove the cancer using one of the following procedures:
If the cancer is found at a very early stage, the doctor might take out the cancer without cutting into the abdomen. Instead, the doctor will put a tube through the rectum into the colon and cut the tumor out. This is called a local excision. If the cancer is found in a small bulging piece of tissue (called a polyp), the operation is called a polypectomy.
If the cancer is larger, the doctor will take out the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it (bowel or colon resection). The healthy parts of the colon are then sewn together (anastomosis). The doctor will also take out lymph nodes near the intestine and look at them under the microscope to see if they contain cancer.
If the doctor is not able to sew the colon back together, he or she will make an opening (stoma) on the outside of the body to allow waste to pass out of the body. This procedure is called a colostomy. Sometimes a colostomy is only needed until the colon has healed, and then it can be reversed. However, if the doctor has to take out the entire lower colon, the colostomy will be permanent and the patient will need to wear a special bag to collect body wastes. This special bag, which sticks to the skin around the stoma with a special glue, can be thrown away after it is used. The bag does not show under clothing, and most people can take care of these bags themselves.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Most anticancer drugs are injected into a vein (IV) or a muscle; some are given by mouth. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning that the drugs flow through the bloodstream to nearly every part of the body to kill cancerous cells. It is generally given in cycles: a treatment period is followed by a recovery period, then another treatment period, and so on. If the cancer has spread to the liver, the patient may be given chemotherapy directly into the artery going to the liver. If the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the operation, the patient may be given chemotherapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Chemotherapy given after an operation to a person who has no visible cancer cells is called adjuvant chemotherapy. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds , wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Biologic therapy: Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.