Cancer is a devastating disease, and surgery is often recommended for its many forms. Consulting with a surgical oncologist helps you understand your recommended procedure and clear any misconceptions about the surgery and the specific type of cancer. Here are common questions and answers people may have when speaking with a surgical oncologist.Many people are…
What Are the Options for Colon Cancer Treatment?
Colon cancer, formally called colorectal cancer, is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the colon. It is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States alone and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Fortunately, we use many available treatment options to help people combat this disease. Below is an outline of each treatment option we will consider depending on the stage of your condition.
Colon Cancer Treatment Options
Colon cancer treatment depends on several factors, such as the tumor’s exact location and whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. In addition, the stage at which one is diagnosed will also determine their treatment plan.
Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as radiation therapy. Patients can undergo chemotherapy through pills, injections, or infusions (the drug is infused into the bloodstream through an IV). Some chemotherapy drugs are given at home once a day for several days in a row; others require clinic visits for several days at a time over several weeks or months.
Radiation therapy is a type of colon cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation beams to kill colon cancer, and anywhere else the disease may have spread. Several options include external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and Internal brachytherapy. EBRT uses machines outside the body to deliver the beam at precisely targeted areas inside the abdomen or pelvis. This method will require an appointment time every day for several weeks or months, depending on the amount of tissue needing treatment. Internal brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy that involves placing small pellets containing radioactive material directly into or near the tumor site through catheters inserted through incisions made during surgery.
Immunotherapy is a colon cancer treatment that uses the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer cells. It works by stimulating the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. It can be used as an adjuvant therapy (a treatment given in addition to other treatments) or as a single-modality colon cancer treatment, which means it can be used alone with or without surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on the patient’s specific case. However, this will exclude oral antibiotics if needed for infection control purposes.
There are multiple surgical procedures our doctor will explore, but it comes down to which stage the patient with colon cancer is experiencing. Each stage of colon cancer offers various surgical operations.
Procedures for Early-Staged Colon Cancer
Patients with stage one or two colon cancer may undergo one of the following minimally-invasive procedures:
Polypectomy. Also known as a colonoscopy, it is a procedure to remove polyps from the colon. Polyps are small, round growths that can develop in any part of the digestive tract, including the colon, rectum, and small intestine. Some are benign (noncancerous), but others may be precancerous or cancerous. The oncologist will insert an instrument through the patient’s mouth or anus into the colon and remove any polyps through a tube.
Endoscopic mucosal resection. This procedure involves inserting an endoscope (long thin tube) up the patient’s rectum into the colon to check for signs of polyps. If found, the oncologist will create a small incision is made which a loop instrument can be inserted into the colon wall. The loop instrument will remove any abnormal tissue surrounding the polyp(s). These pieces of tissue are sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope and tested for signs of cancerous growths.
Laparoscopic surgery. During this procedure, the oncologist will make several small incisions in the abdomen and insert a thin, lighted tube called a laparoscope. This will allow the oncologist to see any polyps located in the colon. It is usually reserved for those whose polyps could not be removed with a polypectomy.
Procedures for Mid-Staged Colon Cancer
If a patient’s colon cancer is starting to grow throughout their colon, the oncologist may recommend a partial colectomy or a lymph node removal. A partial colectomy, sometimes called a hemicolectomy, is a procedure that removes part of the colon. The oncologist will often recommend this procedure for patients whose cancer is in an isolated part of the colon and has no evidence of spreading. Often, it can be combined with other procedures, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
The oncologist may decide to remove nearby lymph nodes in the groin or abdomen during a cancer surgical procedure for testing in a process known as a lymph node removal. This helps indicate the likelihood of colon cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Procedures for Final-Staged Colon Cancer
Treatment options are limited in the final stages of colon cancer. The goal of any colon cancer treatment a patient receives is to relieve or manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Therefore, many patients undergo combined therapy options and surgical procedures to remove all or part of their colon.
In its advanced stage, colon cancer can spread to other organs such as the lungs, abdomen, rectum, and more. While surgery or therapy cannot remove all traces of cancer in the body, it can halt the spread and associated side effects such as bleeding and pain.
Explore Your Options Today
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with colon cancer, it is important to seek care immediately. Colon cancer is treatable and survivable if caught early enough. Contact our Marlton office by calling (856) 475-0876 to schedule an appointment and receive a personalized and comprehensive colon cancer treatment plan.
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