Treatment For Colon and Rectal Cancer
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 100,000 new cases of colon or rectal cancer each year in the United States alone. Yet on a more positive note, research shows that deaths associated with colorectal cancer have markedly decreased over the past 20 years due to advances in screening and improvements in medical treatment.
Treatment for colon cancer depends on the stage and location of the cancer, in addition to the risks and benefits associated with each form of treatment.
As many colorectal surgeons will tell you, the best way to treat colorectal cancer is through prevention. With regular colon evaluations, either with colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, or barium enema, the disease can largely be prevented.
Prevention is the Best Form of Treatment of Colorectal Cancer
In its earliest form, colon cancer and a polyp can be treated with a regularly scheduled colonoscopy and the resection of the polyp through the scope. This is done with a patient under light anesthesia. The physician inserts a lighted scope into the rectum and advances the tip of the scope to the polyp. A small snare is placed around the polyp and the polyp is removed. It is retrieved and sent to the pathologist for evaluation. This can be curative. However, these small cancers are much less common than the larger cancers which require an operation.
In those instances where the polyp has grown too large to be treated with a simple colonoscopic resection, surgery is required.
Colon Cancer Treatment Through Surgical Intervention
Surgical intervention may be the best option for eliminating early stages of colon cancer. The surgery can be performed laparoscopically or in the more traditional, open fashion.
The goal of surgical treatment is to remove the affected segment of colon and reattach the ends of the colon so that the patient is returned to normal functional existence.
After performing a bowel preparation, which is a simple mechanical cleaning of the bowels, the patient is taken to the operating room where, under anesthesia, the surgeon can insert several different tubes through the abdominal wall via very small incisions. One of the openings allows the insertion of a camera with the light on the end. The other incisions allow for the instruments to be used. Working inside the abdomen, the affected segment of colon is removed and retrieved through another small incision on the abdominal wall. The anastomosis, or reattachment, is then performed and the patient is allowed to recover.
For various reasons, whether it be physician training or patient preference, or other technical factors, sometimes the operation must be performed in the old traditional style with a large incision. When this is done, the operation is essentially the same as a laparoscopic procedure. However, it is done through a larger incision. The goal remains the same, to remove the affected segment of colon.
Chemotherapy and Radiation
In patients with anal cancer, the type of cell that has become malignant is different from that in colorectal cancer. It is felt that squamous cell cancer of the anus is caused by a virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is similar in nature to the virus of that affects the cervix of women and causes cervical cancer.
Surveillance is important for those people at risk and for the population in general so that when diagnosed early, the disease can be easily treated with chemotherapy and radiation. The cure rates are very high and the treatment is usually very successful.
In patients with a rectal cancer, treatment is often begun by using chemotherapy and radiation therapy prior to the surgical procedure. It is felt that this allows for a better cure rate. It is thought that the chemo-radiation actually seals lymphatic vessels which are the routes of spread of cancer and helps to sterilize the local area prior to surgery.
Depending on the thickness of the colon or rectal tumor and depending on whether lymph nodes are involved, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be necessary after the patient has recovered from the operation. Specialists, called oncologists, make that determination after studying the cell types and the extent of spread of the original cancer.
Should chemotherapy be needed after a colon operation, the medicine is usually administered over six months to one year. Again, radiation therapy maybe use before or after the operation to remove cancers of the rectum.
In certain situations, more extensive chemotherapy using specialized chemotherapeutic medicines may be required. These medications inhibit blood vessel growth to tumors and act by essentially depriving the tumors of their oxygen supply. Oncologists will make the determination as to whether these medications are necessary.
See Your Colorectal Surgeon Today – Prevention is the Best Treatment
Clearly the best treatment for colon rectal and anal cancer, is prevention. It is important that each patient over the age of 50 and those patients with a family history polyps or tumors see their physicians and see a Los Angeles colon and rectal surgical specialist for evaluation and potential treatment.
Prevention is the best road to cure.