Chemotherapy for colorectal cancer is usually administered after surgery to remove malignant tumors is performed. Most medical professionals recommend it for cases of stage three and advanced stage two colon cancers. The purpose and benefits of chemotherapy are a reduced chance of recurrence, increased life expectancy, and lowered mortality. Chemotherapy may also help with some symptoms.
A primary benefit of chemotherapy for colorectal cancer is lowered mortality. Since the act of surgical removal is often not sufficient to eliminate all cancerous cells in later stages of the disease, chemotherapy can sometimes accomplish this objective. Patients with stage three colon cancer tend to experience higher long-term survival rates if they complete chemotherapy.
Another side benefit of chemotherapy for colorectal cancer is a reduction in disease symptoms. Although the experience of going through chemotherapy comes with its own side effects and risks, the discomfort that accompanies abnormal cell growth in the intestine is alleviated somewhat. Symptoms of colon cancer can include chronic painful bloating, gas, bowel obstruction and bouts of constipation and diarrhea.
Since chemotherapy for colorectal cancer is typically given to patients following surgery, it helps to fully eliminate cancerous cells that might still exist. This includes cells that have spread to nearby areas. A patient with an advanced stage of colon cancer who has chemotherapy is more likely to have lower chances of disease recurrence than a patient who does not.
Many recurrences of colon cancer happen within the first two to three years following surgery. Chemotherapy has been shown to reduce the number of patients who experience a recurrence within this time frame. Those who do experience a new growth of cancer cells typically do not see them until at least five years after the initial removal of the tumor.
The survival rate for colon cancer is also higher for patients who undergo chemotherapy. They tend to not only live longer but go for longer periods of time without any detection of new cancer cells. Usually patients who have received chemotherapy treatments and have gone for eight years without a recurrence are considered to be cured. The chance of relapse after the eight year mark is considered to be minimal.
Patients who have stage two colon cancer do not typically undergo chemotherapy treatments following surgery unless the cancer is a high-risk form. The benefits of chemotherapy for cancer that has not yet advanced to stage three do not usually justify the risks. Only a small fraction of patients at stage two who undergo chemotherapy for colorectal cancer witness any significant improvements in their condition.