Cancer generally strikes fear in the hearts of all who receive that most disturbing of diagnosis. Colon cancer remains a very serious disease, but new technologies and medications allow much greater odds of controlling its spread. Colon cancer treatment usually falls into one of four categories, with a combination of methodologies often proving most effective.
Early detection is integral to fighting colon cancer. Surgery to remove cancerous or pre-cancerous polyps is the treatment of choice if the cancer is discovered early. Removal of polyps in some early-stage cancers eliminates the disease entirely. The success rate of these surgeries emphasizes the need for regular screening and colonoscopies.
Late-stage colon cancers often require a more invasive form of surgery, such as a colectomy. This colon cancer treatment excises the section of the colon that is cancerous, as well as tissue located to either side of the obviously cancerous area. Tests are also performed on nearby lymph nodes, in an attempt to kill all the cancer cells and prevent them from spreading to other part of the body. Colectomies often require that the patient wear a colostomy bag on either a temporary or permanent basis.
Colon cancer discovered in its later stages is often past the point of procedures that can bring about remission or cure. Surgery might be performed in such grim cases, but this form of colon cancer treatment is geared toward relieving pain, reducing symptoms, and providing a better quality of life. Surgery that eliminates colon blockage, caused by the advance of the cancer, is not uncommon in late-stage cases.
As is true with most every cancer, the disease can spread to other organs if left untreated. Chemotherapy is frequently used in conjunction with surgery to destroy cancer cells. It is usually brought into play if the cancer has spread beyond the colon, infecting the rectum or the lymph nodes. People who suffer from rectal cancer might undergo a series of both chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Radiation is predominantly used after surgery has been completed. The goal is to kill cancer cells that might have evaded the surgeon’s scalpel or survived the onslaught of chemotherapy. Radiation is also used prior to surgery, because it tends to reduce the size of tumors and simplify their removal process. It is fairly routine in early-stage colon cancer.
Researchers are constantly running clinical trials on drugs that might target the specific cells that run amok and cause colon cancer. Since their efficacy is still in doubt, and because side effects are largely unknown, targeted drugs are often a colon cancer treatment suggested for those in the most advanced or final stages of the disease.