In our previous article, we went through what is Colon cancer (colorectal cancer), the symptoms that occur and how your urologist or urogynecologist diagnoses colon cancer.
If you haven’t read through the article, please visit the following link before you learn about the treatment options for colorectal cancer.
Once your doctor diagnoses the problem as colon cancer, the next step is to determine the stage of the cancer. He/she will advise you to get some tests done including scans of pelvis, abdomen and chest. These tests will show the extent of spread of the cancer cells. This process is called ‘Staging cancer’. Staging of cancer ranges from 0 to IV where 0 being the case of least spread or localized cancer and IV being the case of metastasised cancer. (Spread to other parts of the body).
Treatment options determined by your urologist depend on:
- The stage in which the cancer is currently
- How much area of the colon is damaged (if any)
Treatment options for colon cancer include colonoscopy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy. Every individual will need a tailored approach to treat the problem.
Surgical options for early stage colon cancer
- Colonoscopy – If the cancer is still in the polyps stage, colonoscopy will be good enough procedure to remove the polyps.
- Endoscopic Mucosal Resection – Along with removal of polyps, the mucosa region of the larger intestine will also be removed. This surgery needs additional equipment along with a colonoscope.
- Laparoscopic removal of colorectal cancer – This is a minimally invasive procedure in which few incisions are made in abdomen region. Polyps or tumors are removed along with the affected intestine and a part of lymph nodes is also removed to perform biopsy. If the cancer cells are present inside the lymph system, then your doctor can confirm that the possibility of cancer spread to other parts of the body.
Surgical options for treating colon cancer that is in a little advanced stage
- Partial Colectomy – In cases when the cancer has crossed the linings of the colon, the area of the colon is removed along with the cancer tumour. Then the healthy parts of the colon are connected. This is possible only in the case when marginal tissues of colon are to be removed. Partial Colectomy is done using a laparoscope.
- Ostomy/Colostomy – In little advanced cases, the urologist may not find it possible to join the disconnected portions of the colon immediately during the surgery. In such situations, a temporary path for stool to exit the body may be created through the abdomen. This is called Ostomy. In case when the underlying disconnected colon doesn’t heal to an extent that it can be reconnected, then the temporary pathway may become a permanent way for stool to exit the body.
- Removal of Lymph nodes – Typically in early stages or little advanced stages, lymph nodes are removed to conduct biopsy for presence of cancer cells.
Treatment of colorectal cancer in advanced stage
When the treatment has reached it’s advanced stage, the treatment options depend on your health condition at that time. If you are not in good health, your doctor will only try to relieve you off the symptoms by conducting a surgery and removing the damaged colon.
If you are in good health, then further treatments will be an option to remove the cancer cells and arrest further spread.
- Chemotherapy – Drugs will be injected to kill the cancer cells. This can be done before the surgical removal of cancer tumour from the colon in order to shrink it. Chemotherapy may also be administered after the surgical removal of tumor so that any remnant cancer cells can be removed from the body. In cases when surgical options are not an option, Chemotherapy may be done to kill the cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy – High energy rays are targeted at the cancer tumors and the areas that are harbouring the growth of cancer cells. These rays kill the cancer cells instantly. Radiation therapy is used before surgical removal (similar to Chemotherapy) to shrink the tumor or when surgery is not an option.
- Immunotherapy – Cancer cells are not attacked by the immune system because certain parts of cancer cells signal the immune system that they are good cells like other body cells. Specific drugs will be administered that disconnect the “good” communication by the bad cancer cells so that immune system can pitch into play and destroy the cancer cells.
- Targeted drug therapy – Cancer cells develop and multiply inside the body due to some abnormalities inside them. In targeted drug therapy, the drugs target the abnormalities in the cells, as a result of which their growth is arrested and they eventually die off.
Reiterating the symptoms of colon cancer:
- Dark coloured stools or blood in stools
- Change in bowel movements (when nothing in your lifestyle has changed)
- Narrowing of stools (happens due to blockage in colon).
Never ignore the symptoms reported by your body. It can only make any of your medical conditions worse. Talk to your family physician or a urologist when you notice such symptoms.