If you have colorectal cancer in, there’s good chance that you are cured or can live longer with this disease than before. This is mainly because there are better and advanced treatments options for it these days.
You should discuss with your doctor the possible options and about which of them suits you the most.
Treatment of colorectal cancer depends on several factors. Your overall health and the stage of your colorectal cancer largely influence the treatment plan you need. This will be determined from the tests and diagnosis that your doctor will perform. Read about the tests and diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
There are three main treatment options - surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
How Do I choose the Right Treatment Option?
When you meet your doctor, he may want to know:
- How large your tumor or extra growth is?
- Whether the cancer has spread beyond the colon
- About your overall health, in general
- Your preferences
- Side effects of the treatments and their possible benefits
- How well certain options work for you compared to others
What Are my Treatment Options?
Most common treatment options are:
This is the most preferred way that doctors use to treat most colorectal cancers. It is most successful in treating the cancer, because it involves removal of the tumor. The tumor, a small portion of the surrounding healthy tissues, and nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.
The best chance for a cure is to remove the tumor entirely. Surgeons may remove only a part of your colon or rectum that has the tumor. The procedure may involve a few small cuts in your belly (of the procedure is done through a procedure called laparoscopy). You will experience lesser pain and recover faster with the laparsoscopic approach.
Various types of surgeries that can be performed are such as Partial colectomy, colostomy, or other surgical procedures for advanced stage cancers.
If your colorectal cancer is at an advanced stage or your overall health is very poor, your surgeon may recommend a surgery to relieve you and improve your symptoms. Read about the symptoms of colorectal cancer here. This surgery is not done to cure cancer, but is used to relieve signs and symptoms, such as bleeding and pain.
For early colon cancers, the recommended treatment is surgery and removal of the cancerous growths. An early stage colon cancer (such as stage I and most stage II) requires surgery alone as it is the only effective treatment required at this stage.
Surgery for advanced cancer
If the colorectal cancer has spread to local lymph nodes (such as in stage III), the risk of return of the cancer is high even if all visible signs of the cancer have been removed.If your cancer is very advanced or if your overall health is poor, your doctor may perform a surgical procedure to relieve your condition, such as to unblock the colon, and in order to improve the symptoms. The purpose of such procedures is not to cure cancer, but instead to relieve signs and symptoms.
Chemotherapy involves the use of special drugs that kill cancer cells. It is a common treatment after surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous cells that might not have been removed in the surgery. Chemotherapy also controls the growth of your tumor and provides relief to the symptoms in late-stage cancer.
Radiation involves the use of a powerful beam of energy, similar to that used in X-rays, to destroy cancerous cells that might remain after surgery. The treatment can be delivered along with the surgery in parallel.
Radiation therapy is not commonly used in early-stage colorectal cancers, but is a common procedure for treating rectal cancer if the cancer has spread through the wall of the rectum or traveled to nearby lymph nodes. In some cases, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy. It can also be used after surgery to reduce the risk that the cancer may come back in the area of the rectum where it started in the beginning.
The space in rectum is smaller and the structures can be involved with one another. Therefore, a tumor in the rectum is often harder to remove surgically. Consequently, for rectal cancers, initial chemotherapy and radiation therapy are recommended to try and shrink the cancer. This allows for easier removal of the cancer from the rectum and lowers the risk of the cancer returning locally.
Targeted drug therapy
These drugs are used to target specific problems in the body. These defects cause the cancer cells to grow. Few examples of these drugs are:
- Panitumumab (Vectibix)
- Ramucirumab (Cyramza)
- Cetuximab (Erbitux)
- Ziv-aflibercept (Zaltrap)
- Regorafenib (Stivarga)
- Bevacizumab (Avastin)
Targeted drugs can be given along with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These are mainly used in cancers that have grown to an advanced stage. These can help some people, but not all of the people treated with these drugs get a cure. Researchers are working on them.
Supportive Care / Palliative Care
Palliative care is a medical care where the objective is to provide you relief from pain and relieve other symptoms due to a serious illness. Palliative care specialists may work with you, your family, and other specialist to support the ongoing treatments and care.
Palliative care is done along with other treatments and curative care. It is not a primary treatment option.
It is delivered through a team of nurses, doctors, and trained people. Their objective is to improve your and your family’s quality of life.