Colon Cancer Treatment
If you have been diagnosed with colon cancer, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the type and stage of the cancer as well as your overall health. In general, treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Your doctor may use only one or a combination of these treatments.
If your cancer is in an early stage, surgery may be the only treatment you need. But, if your cancer is in an advanced stage, you may need surgery plus chemotherapy and/ or other treatment options.
Colon Cancer Treatment Options
Colon surgery is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. Surgery is used to cure early stage of cancer by completely remove the tumor from the colon tissues. Colon cancer surgery may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
The type of colon surgery you receive will depend on the size and location of the tumor. There are two different types of colon surgery: colectomy and colostomy.
- Colectomy: This is a procedure to remove all or part of your colon. When all of the colon is removed, including the cecum and the appendix, it is called a total colectomy. If only part of the colon is removed, it is called a partial colectomy.
Colectomy may be necessary to treat or prevent diseases and conditions that affect your colon. It usually requires other procedures to reattach the remaining portions of your digestive system and permit waste to leave your body.
- Colostomy: In this procedure, one end of the colon is diverted through an incision in the abdominal wall to create a stoma. A stoma is the opening in the skin where a pouch for collecting feces is attached. This helps solid waste and gas exit the body without passing through the rectum.
A colostomy may be temporary or permanent. It is usually done after bowel surgery or injury. Most permanent colostomies are “end colostomies,” while many temporary colostomies bring the side of the colon up to an opening in the abdomen.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy the cancer cells or stop them from growing. It can either be given orally (by mouth) or intravenously (through a vein).
You may have it after surgery or sometimes as your main treatment if the cancer has spread. While chemotherapy drugs can destroy cancer cells but they can damage healthy, normal cells as well. When healthy cells are damaged, it causes side effects.
Some common chemotherapy side effects include tiredness, loss of appetite, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, and nausea or vomiting.
Radiation therapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy, to enhance the effectiveness of treatment.
This treatment is usually given 5 days a week for several weeks. If you also need chemotherapy, you’ll get it in a different outpatient area.
If you’re going to get radiation therapy, it’s important to ask your doctor about the possible short- and long-term side effects. Some possible side effects of radiation therapy include fatigue, nausea, rectal irritation, loose bowel movements, and scarring.
Most side effects should get better over time after treatment is finished, but some problems may not go away completely. If you notice any side effects, talk to your doctor right away. Your doctor may change the dose of your radiation or how often you have treatments. Or your doctor may stop treatment until your side effects go away.
Targeted therapy uses medicines that target the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of therapy blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells and limits harm to healthy cells.
Some of these medicines are given along with chemotherapy medicines, while others are used by themselves. Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the drugs, doses and schedules of targeted therapy.
Side effects of targeted therapy will depend mainly on the type of drug or combination of drugs, the dose, how it’s given and your overall health. Some common side effects of targeted therapy for colon cancer include tiredness, skin rashes, nausea, headaches, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and rash or dry skin.
Most side effects gradually go away on their own after treatment ends, but talk to your doctor if these side effects bother you or do not go away. Your doctor may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine.
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that focuses on using the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.
Immunotherapy works better for some types of cancer than for others. It’s used by itself for some of these cancers, but for others it seems to work better when used in combination with other types of treatment.
Different types of immunotherapy can cause different side effects. The most common side effects of immunotherapy may include fatigue, headache, skin rash, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, joint pain, abdominal pain, itching, decreased appetite, and shortness of breath.