How is colorectal cancer treated?
Surgery: surgery often plays a key role in treatment. For colorectal cancers, it is the main curative treatment. The surgeon will determine how much of the large bowel (the colon) needs to be removed. Because the tumour can spread to lymph nodes nearby, some lymph nodes are often removed at the time of surgery. Depending upon the location of the tumour, surgery may or may not allow normal bowel function afterwards. Creation of a colostomy (opening the intestine to a bag on the skin) is typically needed only in a very small number of patients.
For anal cancers (as majority are squamous cell cancers), surgery is less frequently used at the time of diagnosis because effective “organ-preserving” approaches with chemotherapy and radiation therapy are available. If bowel function is poor, sometimes surgery is used at first, but often it is reserved as a second chance treatment when “organ-preserving” treatment does not succeed.
Because surgery for the anal canal involves removing the area responsible for bowel movements, a surgery called a colostomy to re-route bowel movements to a bag outside of the body is usually necessary as well trained surgeons may use minimally invasive surgical techniques depending on certain features of your cancer. Your surgeon will discuss these features with you prior to the operation. Additional treatment with chemotherapy or radiation the cancer.
Medical Therapy: while surgery and radiation focus directly on treating the bowel or pelvic area, medication is often recommended to improve cure rates. A medical oncologist will evaluate you and determine what medications may be most helpful. Chemotherapy is a kind of medication that can destroy cancer cells by different methods. Often, two or more drugs may be combined for the best results. The dose and schedule for treatment varies. Some chemotherapy may be given once every few weeks, while in other cases it is given daily. It also differs depending upon the type of cancer.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is often used with surgery and chemotherapy to treat cancers of the colon, rectum and anus. Treatment involves focused radiation to the bowel and pelvis to treat cancer cells in the area. Surrounding healthy tissue can be affected, but normal cells are often better able to heal from radiation injury than are cancer cells.
For colon cancer, depending on the location and stage of your cancer, radiation therapy can lower the chance of recurrence.
For some rectal cancer, radiation therapy is given before surgery, with or without chemotherapy, to make the tumour smaller so it can be removed more easily. In some cases, radiation and chemotherapy are given after surgery instead of before surgery. Anal cancer can often be treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, as an “organ-preserving” approach that avoids the need for surgery
What follow-up is needed after treatment?
After treatment for colorectal cancer, a blood test to measure amounts of CEA (a substance in the blood that may be increased when cancer is present) may be done to see if the cancer has come back. Routine CT scans, clinical examinations, and colonoscopy are also performed at intervals determined by the stage.
What is a colon and rectal surgeon?
Colon and rectal surgeons are experts in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of diseases of the colon, rectum and anus. They have completed advanced surgical training in the treatment of these diseases as well as full general surgical training. They are well-versed in the treatment of both benign and malignant diseases of the colon, rectum and anus and are able to perform routine screening examinations and surgically treat conditions if indicated to do so.
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.
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