Colorectal cancer, one of the commonest and potentially fatal types of cancer, occurs when timorous growths form in the large intestine. Cancer often develops and progresses without showing symptoms, which is why most often the disease goes undetected in its initial stage. However, screening and diagnosis of colorectal cancer can help detect it while there is still time for treatment.
What are the treatment options for colorectal cancer?
There is no single treatment for cancer. Generally, a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy are used to treat patients depending on the stage and type of cancer. In more advanced stages, surgery may be recommended to eliminate the cause of cancer from its roots. Treatment aims to ease the symptoms, remove cancer, and prevent its progression.
Here is a look at the different ways to treat colorectal cancer –
Chemotherapy uses certain anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. Either these drugs can be given orally or they can be administered intravenously into the body. Chemotherapy may be used to shrink a larger cancer prior to surgery so that it can be easily removed. Alternatively, it can also be administered after surgery in case the cancer is larger or has metastasized to the lymph nodes. Thus, chemotherapy can kill any remaining cancer cells in the body and help lower the risk of cancer relapse.
Chemotherapy may also help to ease symptoms spreading to other parts of the body that cannot be corrected with surgery. Sometimes, it can also be given in combination with radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is another commonly used treatment approach for colorectal, as well as other types of cancer. The therapy uses high-intensity energy sources, like protons and X-rays to destroy the cancer cells. It might be used to reduce the size of cancer right before surgery so that it can be eliminated with ease. When surgery is not an option, radiation therapy might help to reduce the symptoms of colorectal cancer. Radiation therapy can be combined with chemotherapy.
The drug treatment immunotherapy uses your immune system to combat cancer. Your immune system may not attack the cancer cells because they form proteins that keep immune system cells from identifying the cancer cells. Immunotherapy functions by hindering that process. The therapy is usually recommended for advanced colorectal cancer. The doctor will likely test your cancer cells before proceeding with the treatment to see if they are likely to respond.
Targeted therapy focuses on certain abnormalities found within the cancer cells. Targeted drug therapy can kill cancer cells by blocking these abnormalities. These are often used in combination with chemotherapy, typically for people with end-stage cancer.
If all other therapies fail to treat cancer and stop its progression, the doctor might recommend surgery. The different surgical methods used for treatment may include the following –
Colectomy – This involves partial or complete removal of the colon that has become cancerous, as well as its surrounding regions to lower the risk of spreading of cancer.
Endoscopy – The procedure allows the surgeon to eliminate localized, smaller cancer. Endoscopy involves inserting a narrow, flexible tube attached with a camera and light directly into the body to have a detailed look at the cancerous tissues. The procedure assists the surgeon to perform minor surgery and remove the cancerous tissues/organs.
Laparoscopic surgery – During this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon makes several minute incisions in the abdomen with the help of a camera and an instrument. The camera displays the image of the colon on a monitor, allowing the surgeon to operate the larger polyps.
Palliative surgery – Palliative surgery aims to relieve symptoms if the cancer is beyond treatment. The surgeon, in this case, attempts to relieve any blockage of the colon and manage symptoms like pain and bleeding.
Colorectal cancer, like most other types of cancer, can be treated if detected at an early stage. Reports claim that Stage I and Stage II cancers have a success rate of 80-95% and 55-80% respectively when diagnosed early. The doctor will take into account the overall health condition, age, as well as other characteristics of the patient when deciding on the most appropriate treatment option.