Once the diagnosis of colon cancer has been confirmed and the necessary tests have been carried out to find out what stage the disease is in, it must be determined which of the colon cancer treatments that exist are the most suitable for curing it.
The specialist will recommend and explain the most appropriate treatment possibilities in your case, so that once you have received enough information, together with your doctor, you can make a decision.
Colon cancer treatment, as occurs in most tumors, is a multidisciplinary treatment. Different specialties work together to combine therapies and offer the patient the best chance for a cure.
In the treatment of colon cancer, a protocol is followed, that is, a set of norms and guidelines (treatment plan) that are established, based on scientific experience, for the treatment of said tumor.
These protocols, which are widely used in all hospitals, include the indications or limitations of treatment based on a number of factors:
General condition of the patient.
Location of the tumor.
Stage in which the disease is found: infiltration into the wall of the colon or rectum, lymph node involvement, involvement of nearby organs and spread of the disease.
The doctor will also take into account, if in addition to colon cancer, there are other important diseases that may make it difficult to carry out any specific treatment. Therefore, the treatment proposed by the specialist will not be the same in all patients.
TYPES OF TREATMENTS TO TREAT COLON CANCER BY STAGES
The most frequently used treatments for colon cancer are surgery and chemotherapy.
In stage A, treatment is surgical only.
In stage B, surgery may be the only treatment, but patients with some poor prognosis factors (previously described) benefit from adjuvant or complementary chemotherapy.
In stage C has been shown that surgery alone is insufficient to achieve cure. For this reason, an adjuvant chemotherapy must be carried out in all cases, except for medical contraindications.
In stage D chemotherapy is the most important treatment. When complete surgical resection of metastases is possible, survival is significantly prolonged.
The following sections describe each one of them trying to explain what they consist of, what adverse effects they produce and what the recommendations to minimize said effects are.
Surgery is usually the most important treatment and the first to be carried out on most colon tumors.
The type of surgery that can be applied to colon cancer varies depending on its location and the extension to neighboring nodes and / or organs.
Steps prior to the intervention
Surgery at the level of the colon and rectum is a major surgical intervention, so hospital admission is necessary for a time that may vary from one patient to another. Most commonly, it ranges from one to two weeks. Likewise, anesthesia is necessary, which will always be general.
Before the intervention, a preoperative study is required, which generally consists of a blood and coagulation analysis, an electrocardiogram and a chest x-ray.
Surgery is usually the main local treatment for colon cancer. The technique consists of the removal of the segment of the colon in which the tumor is located, as well as a section of normal tissue, on each side of the lesion, and the corresponding lymph nodes. Subsequently, the ends of the colon are joined to restore the continuity of the digestive tract and maintain its function.
The hospitalization and recovery depend on the specific health conditions of each patient.
When surgery has to be done urgently, with no time to prepare the digestive tract, as is the case in many cases of intestinal obstruction or acute abdomen, it may be necessary to perform a colostomy or ileostomy: this means widening the distal end of the digestive tract through the abdominal wall. In a second surgical time (some time later), the reconstruction of the intestinal transit can be assessed by joining the ends of the intestine and closing the colostomy or ileostomy.
In the event that it is necessary to do a colostomy, it is advisable that you speak with the nursing staff in charge of performing the ostomy care, so that they can solve your doubts. In cases where there is a small liver involvement, the area of metastasis is usually removed.
In many cases with metastatic liver involvement, resection surgery for these lesions is left for later, after a period of systemic treatment with chemotherapy.
How is the postoperative period? Side effects and recommendations
The surgery the colon and rectum, as most surgical interventions, is not without complications and side effects which may occur with more or less frequently after surgery. Usually, they are not a serious problem for the patient, but they do alter their quality of life.
When you wake up from anesthesia, it is normal for you to feel pain in the intervention area. Generally, the surgeon prescribes drugs that will relieve you. If the pain does not subside, it is important that you discuss it with the nursing staff or with the doctor when he visits you a few hours after surgery. Pain, in this case, does not indicate recovery problems but simply that there is a wound.
The type of scar will be different depending on the type of intervention performed. The surgical wound will require a series of cares that are similar to those of any scar produced by another cause. As long as the stitches have not been removed, the care and cleaning of the same will be carried out by the health personnel of the hospital or the health center. Once removed, it is advisable to maintain hygiene similar to that of the rest of the body: washing with soap and water.
Until the wound to the colon or rectum heals, the patient needs to remain adequately hydrated and nourished. The usual thing in these cases is to maintain the sera and place a nasogastric tube. It is a long, thin, flexible tube that is inserted through the nose and into the stomach.
Immediately after surgery, the probe is useful to extract any liquid that accumulates in the stomach or intestine, avoiding an uncomfortable sensation to the patient.
Generally, this probe is removed approximately 24 hours after the intervention, since in most cases, after this time the patient begins to take small sips of liquids, gradually introducing a normal diet.
Chemotherapy is one of the most widely used treatments in the treatment of colon cancer. Its objective is to destroy, using a wide variety of drugs, the cells that make up the tumor in order to achieve the reduction or disappearance of the disease.
How does it work?
Malignant tumors are characterized by being formed by transformed cells whose mechanisms that regulate division have been altered, making them capable of uncontrolled division and invading and affecting neighboring organs.
Most of the drugs used in chemotherapy are designed to destroy cells while dividing. The faster they divide, the more sensitive they are to treatment.
When is chemotherapy given in colon cancer?
Chemotherapy in colon cancer is not indicated in all cases. Its administration will depend on certain factors:
Tumor stage: involvement or not of lymph nodes and / or organs close to the tumor and / or appearance or not of metastasis.
General condition of the patient prior to administration of the treatment.
Depending on these aspects, the administration of chemotherapy can have three purposes:
Curative: the intention of chemotherapy is to cure the disease. In this case it is used as a complementary treatment to surgery. In stage III or C, that is, when there are lymph nodes affected by the tumor, adjuvant chemotherapy has been shown to significantly improve disease-free survival and overall survival. Therefore, it is advisable to administer an adjuvant chemotherapy for 6 months whenever there are no contraindications. The combination of Fluor pyrimidines and Oxaliplatin is used.
Potentially curative: In patients who have liver metastases that can be resected with surgery, chemotherapy, prior to intervention on the liver, may contribute to increasing the chances of prolonged survival. This form of treatment is called “neoadjuvant chemotherapy.”
Symptom or palliative control: chemotherapy aims to control the symptoms produced by the tumor and / or metastasis and its primary objective is to improve the quality of life of the patient who has advanced disease.
It can be very beneficial for you to talk to your oncologist before starting chemotherapy treatment to explain the expected benefits of the treatment and its risks.
How is it administered?
Before starting treatment, it is necessary to assess, through a blood and urine analysis, whether the levels of red blood cells and leukocytes are normal and how your kidneys work, since the doses of the drugs will depend on these results.
Generally, for the treatment of colorectal cancer, the combination of several drugs is used. Most often they are administered intravenously, that is, through a vein.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles, alternating periods of treatment with periods of rest. In most cases, admission is necessary, since the infusion of the drugs usually lasts several days.
Before starting a new cycle, it is necessary to carry out a blood and urine check to make sure that the chemotherapy is not damaging the kidneys or altering the levels of red blood cells and leukocytes. If this were the case, it would be necessary to delay the administration of the next cycle of chemotherapy until renal function and blood values have recovered.
What are the of Prevention Colon Cancer?
Bearing in mind that colon cancer is such a common disease, it is important to discuss preventive measures.
There are many things you can do to minimize the risk of colon cancer and the most important measures are discussed below.
As mentioned throughout this post, annual screening is the best way to detect cancer in the early stages, but it also helps you prevent it.
Several screening options exist and it’s important to discuss them with the healthcare provider.
Maintaining Healthy Weight
Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for colon cancer. In fact, carrying excess weight raises the odds of many health problems besides this one. An important colon cancer preventive measure is a healthy weight.
If you’re already within a healthy weight range, then strive to maintain it.
On the other hand, men and women who are overweight or obese should adopt lifestyle changes to slim down.
A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for both overweight obesity and colon cancer. Therefore, a useful way to help prevent the disease is to exercise regularly and increase activity levels.
Besides regular training, you can also try to move more such as choosing stairs instead of the elevator, going to short walks around the neighborhood every day, etc.
Don’t consider exercise as a sort of punishment, but an inseparable part of a healthy lifestyle.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
A diet that is low in fiber and high in fat contributes to colon cancer. To prevent this disease, you should make some diet changes by limiting (or avoiding) consumption of junk food and increasing the intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Just like exercise, a healthy diet is not a punishment but a part of your lifestyle.
Fiber is necessary because it is vital for digestion. Healthy digestion is also necessary for colon health.
Smoking increases the risk of colon cancer and puts your overall health in great danger.
Therefore, the logical thing to do is to quit smoking. To active smokers, it may seem impossible to simply ditch this habit, but with strong willpower you and support you can do it.
Other Things to do
Typically, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for colon cancer prevention.
In addition to the above-mentioned preventive measures, you should also:
- Consume alcohol moderately or avoid drinking alcohol beverages
- Limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meats at all
- Consume sufficient levels of calcium and vitamin D
- Take an Aspirin or baby Aspirin every day
- Get enough sleep
- Manage stress
- Avoid unhealthy methods of food preparation, instead of frying you can cook