Treatment of colon cancer depends upon the stage of cancer, i.e. stage 1, 2, 3, or 4. Treatment for the last stage includes a combination of surgery, biological therapy, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.
Colon cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, initiates in the glands in the colon lining or large intestine; or in the rectum, which is the end of the colon. It spreads in 5 stages, out of which stage 0 is the first, and stage 4 is the last. Stage 4 needs more attention, and an advanced treatment which consists of therapies and medication. This cancer spreads very slowly and gradually. It establishes as noncancerous polyps, which gradually grows into cancerous growth.
Causes of the cancer may be excess red meat consumption, colorectal polyps, Crohn’s disease, or family history of colon or breast cancer. It can also be caused if other organs of the body have been affected with cancer. The symptoms include stools with blood, anemia, pain in lower abdomen, constipation, diarrhea, or unexplained weight loss.
- If you consult a GP, he may examine your abdomen to see if there is any unnatural growth.
- A fecal occult blood test (FOBT), combined with imaging tests such as sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy can hint at the condition. However, it should be noted that a positive FOBT doesn’t essentially convey the presence of cancer.
- Lymph node biopsy, and blood tests such as liver function test and complete blood count (CBC), can also be done for detection.
- If the tests mentioned above indicate colon cancer, staging is done to find out the extent of cancer spread. Staging tests include MRI or CT scans of brain, pelvic area, abdomen, or chest.
Stages in Colon Cancer
» Stage 0 or Carcinoma in Situ: Stage 0 shows abnormal cellular growth in innermost layer of colon wall (also called mucosa), which may lead to cancer. This is an early stage of growth.
» Stage 1: Stage 1 indicates that the cancer has spread to the tissue layer under mucosa (submucosa).
» Stage 2: Stage 2 is split into three stages – 2A, 2B, and 2C.
- Stage 2A: Cancer has reached to the outermost layer of colon, also called serosa.
- Stage 2B: Cancer has spread through outermost layer of colon, but has not spread to the other organs in the proximity.
- Stage 2C: Cancer has spread through serosa to the other organs in the proximity.
» Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lymph node(s) in the vicinity.
» Stage 4: Cancer has spread to the other organs such as ovary, lung, or liver.
- Treatment includes surgery – to remove unwanted cells, chemotherapy – to kill cancer cells and, radiation therapy – to destruct cancerous tissue.
- Stage 0 can be alleviated by colonoscopy, whereas, stages 1, 2, and 3 need complicated surgery.
- Treatment consists of chemotherapy or radiation to the liver, ablation, and cryotherapy.
- In case of stage 4, chemotherapy is used to rectify the symptoms and extend the patient’s life.
- Treatment consists of chemotherapy which can be administered through veins (IV), shots, pills, or injections.
- Radiation therapy may also have to be administered while giving chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy cycles vary from one day to a week, or more. There is a rest period, of a few weeks or months, between each cycle.
- In prolonged chemotherapy, a catheter is lodged into a vein, close to the heart.
The side effects of chemotherapy may include damage to the healthy cells, along with cancer cells. This may result in pain due to damaged nerves, loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, excess bleeding, and vulnerability to infections. These side effects mainly depend upon the cancer type and the drugs administered.
It is very essential to get treated in time, since it is the last stage, and the life expectancy is bleak. So, if you observe any symptoms mentioned above, consult your doctor immediately.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.