Colon cancer also called as colorectal cancer when caught in the early stages is curable.What are the treatment options for colon cancer? Treatment options for colon cancer depend on the stage at which the cancer is discovered. They include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Surgery is the best approach for early stages of colon cancer. Adjuvant chemotherapy is required, particularly in later stages to prevent the recurrence of cancer. A combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation is required in the advanced stages of colon cancer.
1) Surgery: Surgery may either be done as total colectomy or subtotal colectomy. It is the only treatment required in the early stages of colon cancer (stage I and most cases of stage II) in which cancerous part of the intestine is removed and remaining ends are joined. Sometimes patient may require a surgically created opening between the intestine and abdominal wall called as colostomy. A small bag called as colostomy bag is applied in which contents of the intestine are emptied. Colostomy can be permanent or temporary.
2) Chemotherapy:In addition to surgery, chemotherapy is required in stage II or above to reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer. It may be palliative, adjuvant or neoadjuvant. Palliative is used when cancer has spread to other body parts and surgical removal is not possible. Palliative chemotherapy helps to shrink the tumor, alleviates the symptoms and prolong life. Adjuvant chemotherapy is used once the surgery is done to remove any left out cancer cells. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is given prior to the surgery. It reduces the size of the tumor and helps in efficient removal during surgery. 5-fluorouracil is the most commonly used drug in colon cancer. It is used in association with a vitamin called as leucovorin. Various new chemotherapy drugs such as avastin, vectibix and Erbitux are used along with 5-FU for the treatment of colon cancer which has already spread.
Bevacizumab, cetuximab, and panitumumab, and regorafenib are newer chemotherapy agents that target specific aspects of the cancer cell which may be more important to the tumor than the surrounding tissues. They also have fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.
3) Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy is typically given under the guidance of a radiation specialist called a radiation oncologist. Its primary use is in the treatment of rectal cancer. Multiple cycles may be required. It may sometimes be used to alleviate the pain associated with recurrent or metastatic colon cancer.
What is the success rate of colon cancer treatment? With surgery, more than 90% stage I and 65-80% of stage II colorectal cancers are curable.
How much time is required? Surgery may usually require 2- 3 hours. Chemotherapy or radiotherapy is typically given for a total of 6 months. He/she will be admitted 3- 4 days in the hospital following surgery
What type of anethesia will be given? Surgery is done under general anesthesia
What should be cared? Colonoscopy should be done every year for 5 years following surgery. After that it should be done every 3 years to rule out any polyp or tumor. Blood tests are also done at specific intervals after surgery.
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