Colon cancer ranks third behind lung and breast cancers among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. Despite this fact, it’s still preventable and beatable. As such, everyone can benefit from knowing how to battle this condition.
How is colon cancer treated?
In this article, we will tackle 10 different treatments for colon cancer. Some options to discuss with your medical provider include the following…
1. Laparoscopic Surgery
Laparoscopic surgery is a proven treatment. In this procedure, anesthesia is administered to the patient. Then, the doctor inserts viewing scopes through narrow tubes into the abdomen through tiny incisions. From there, the surgeon proceeds to remove the cancerous tissues.
What is recovery like?
Laparoscopic surgery involves fewer cuts and incisions as compared to traditional surgery. Recovery is therefore much faster and has fewer risks of internal scarring.
In more serious cases, however, the following procedure is recommended…
2. Radiofrequency Ablation and Cryoablation
Radiofrequency ablations (RFA) attack tumors spreading to other vital organs like the kidneys and the lungs. In this procedure, radiofrequency waves eliminate the tumors with heat. An opposite process called cryoablation freezes the tumors instead.
Those procedures sound easy peasy, but how are they effective?
The downside to these treatments is that they may not yield the same results for everyone. In other words, there’s still a chance that some tumors might remain for some people.
The following treatments, however, make use of radiation instead of the knife…
Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive method that makes use of radioactive substances. A trained professional places these substances directly into the affected area. These procedures can be either low dose, high dose, or as permanent implants.
How effective is it?
There is limited information available that affirms brachytherapy’s efficacy. However, some studies have discovered that it could be a promising treatment for different types of cancer. Specifically, it has been shown to diminish the growth of cancer cells.
Our next treatment makes use of higher doses of radiation…
4. External-Beam Radiation Therapy
External-beam radiation therapy is the most common type of procedure for treating cancer, especially for both colon and rectal cancer. This method uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells through a specialized machine. Normally, this procedure is administered five times a week over a couple of months.
Should the cancer cells spread to other organs, the following type of external beam radiation therapy is performed…
5. Stereotactic Radiation Therapy
This option is a more specific type of external-beam radiation therapy. This procedure is for metastasized cancer, or cancer that has spread to other vital organs like the liver or the lungs. In stereotactic therapy, the cancer is neutralized with a large, precise dose of radiation. This way, invasive surgery will no longer be an option.
However, not all cancers that infect the liver or lungs can be treated with this procedure. Our next therapy could be helpful in such cases…
6. Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Compared to external-beam radiation therapy, intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) applies a high amount of radiation towards the target area. This option keeps the surrounding tissues intact.
The following is perhaps the most well-known treatment for any kind of cancer…
Chemotherapy is a term that some of us are already familiar with. In this post-surgery treatment, U.S. FDA-approved drugs like irinotecan, trifluridine, and capecitabine are administered in order to fully eliminate any remaining cancer cells.
What are the side effects of chemo?
Chemotherapy often causes unpleasant side effects since it attacks cancerous and healthy cells. These symptoms include:
- Mouth sores
- Neuropathy (numbness of feet/hands)
Our next therapeutic treatment, however, involves fewer side effects…
8. Targeted Therapy
This therapy focuses on the cancer’s genes and characteristics that contribute to its growth. Anti-angiogenesis therapy is a type of targeted therapy that stops angiogenesis, through which new blood vessels are formed from pre-existing ones. The tumor is then weakened, since it needs to feed on the nutrients from new blood vessels.
What are the side effects of this procedure?
Compared to chemotherapy, targeted therapies only cause minor, less-serious side-effects on the skin, like rashes, dry skin, or heightened sensitivity to sunlight. Ask a dermatologist for possible remedies for these conditions.
The following therapy can give the immune system a boost to help it fight therapy…
Immunotherapy, as the name suggests, fortifies the body’s natural line of defense, the immune system, to combat cancer. To achieve this goal, it uses various humanized antibodies, or modified immune system cells. These humanized antibodies include pembrolizumab (Keytruda), nivolumab (Opdivo), and ipilimumab (Yervoy).
Our last option is a go-to treatment for many cancer-related illnesses, particularly for colorectal cancer…
This treatment finds suspicious polyps and helps them exit the body without passing through the rectum. These polyps are then collected in a pouch called colostomy bag, which is worn outside the body. Overall, this procedure prevents 90% of colorectal cancers with early detection.
Risks and side effects
Getting a colostomy might pose a number of risks like infection, potential organ damage, and bleeding both in the colon and in the stoma. Side effects include a higher amount of gas and fecal discharge.
The importance of seeking treatment early
As soon as you notice the symptoms of colon cancer, it’s important to consult your doctor if you can get a colonoscopy as soon as possible. This way, you can rule other conditions out and receive proper treatment. Early detection can help you avoid having to deal with serious procedures and surgeries later on, and in effect, sparing yourself the financial and mental health burden that comes with it.