How is Colon Cancer Treated?
Treatment for colon cancer depends upon the stage of the cancer when discovered. Initial screenings such as colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies can detect pre-cancerous tumors in the colon. These tumors can be removed and tested for cancer. These preventative screenings are extremely important in preventing and delaying the diagnosis of colon cancer.
At stage 0, colorectal cancer is found only in the innermost lining of the colon. Treatment usually involves a polypectomy, a removal of the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue. More extensive surgery to remove larger colon cancers may also be required. This procedure, called an anastomosis, removes the diseased part of the colon and reattaches the healthy tissue to maintain bowel function. Surgery that removes all of the cancer is considered curative.
At stage I, colorectal cancer tumors have spread beyond the inner lining of the colon to the second and third layers as well as the inside walls of the colon. The cancer has not spread to the outer wall of the colon or outside the colon. Standard treatment involves surgery to remove the cancer and a small amount of tissue around the tumor. Additional treatments are not usually needed. Aggressive surgery to remove all of the cancer offers a great potential for cure.
At stage II, colorectal cancers are larger and extend through the muscular wall of the colon. In these cases, there is no cancer in the lymph nodes, small nodes found throughout the body that produce cells of the immune system. These nodes are connected by tubes and are found throughout the body. If cancer infiltrates the lymph system, it can quickly spread and infect other areas of the body complicating treatment. Standard treatment is surgical removal of the cancer and an area surrounding the cancer: Chemotherapy may also be given as a precaution against cancer recurrence. This is usually restricted to persons with high-risk disease, as the advantages of chemotherapy in this stage of colon cancer are minimal.
At stage III, colorectal cancers have spread outside the colon to one or more lymph nodes. Tumors have grown through the colon wall and have spread to surrounding tissue. Surgery to remove the tumor and all involved lymph nodes if possible. After surgery, the patient will receive chemotherapy. Radiation may be needed if the tumor is large and invading the tissue surrounding the colon.