The treatment for colorectal cancer will depend on several factors, including its size and location, the stage of the cancer, whether or not it is recurrent, and the current overall state of health of the patient. A good specialist will explain all the treatment options available to the patient. This is an opportunity for the patient to ask questions and get advice on lifestyle changes that will help recovery.
Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and immunotherapy:
This is the most common colorectal cancer treatment. The affected malignant tumors and any lymph nodes that are nearby will be removed. Surgeons remove lymph nodes because they are the first place cancers tend to spread to.
The bowel is usually sewn back together. On some occasions the rectum may need to be taken out completely – a colostomy bag is then attached for drainage. The colostomy bag collects stools and is generally placed temporarily – sometimes it may be a permanent measure if it is not possible to join up the ends of the bowel.
If the cancer is diagnosed early enough, surgery may be the only treatment necessary to cure the patient of colorectal cancer. Even if surgery does not cure the patient, it will ease the symptoms.
Chemotherapy involves using a medicine (chemical) to destroy the cancerous cells. It is commonly used for colon cancer treatment. It may be used before surgery in an attempt to shrink the tumor. A study found that patients with advanced colon cancer who receive chemotherapy and who have a family history of colorectal cancer have a significantly lower likelihood of cancer recurrence and death.
Radiotherapy uses high energy radiation beams to destroy the cancer cells, and also to prevent them from multiplying. This treatment is more commonly used for rectal cancer treatment. It may be used before surgery in an attempt to shrink the tumor.
Doctors may order both radiotherapy and chemotherapy after surgery as they can help lower the chances of recurrence.
Scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center, Milwaukee have learned that a protein, CXCL12, that normally controls intestinal cell movement, has the potential to halt colorectal cancer spreading.
If there is still tumor exists after above treatments, cell based immunotherapy such as dendritic cells and adoptive T-cells therapy could be a good option, they have the potential to remove the tumor cells left in the body.
Recovery from colorectal cancer
Malignant tumors will most probably grow and spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. The chances of a complete cure depend enormously on how early the cancer is diagnosed and treated. A patient’s recovery depends of the following factors:
- The cancer stage when diagnosis was made.
- Whether a hole or blockage was created in the colon by the cancer.
- Whether the cancer has come back.
- The patient’s general state of health.