Table of Contents
Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Colorectal or colon cancer starts in the colon (large intestine) or the rectum (located at the end of the colon). These organs can be found in the lower portion of the digestive system.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-related death in men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society also predicted it would cause about 52,980 deathsduring 2021.
- The cells located along the lining of the colon or rectum mutate. They also grow out of control and then form into a tumor.
- Clumps of cells called polyps inside the colon grow and become cancerous.
Treatment Options for Colon Cancer
In the care of colorectal cancer patients, there are different types of doctors who often work together to create an overall colon and rectal cancer treatment plan. This is called a multidisciplinary team. This team includes the following:
- Surgeon. A doctor qualified to practice surgery.
- Medical oncologist. An oncology doctor who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer.
- Radiation oncologist. An oncology doctor will treat cancer with radiation therapy.
- Gastroenterologist. A doctor who specializes in the function and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Physician’s assistant or Physician associate (PA). These are health care providers who have a defined scope of practice.
- Nurse practitioners. These are nurses with a degree in advanced practice nursing.
- Oncology nurses. These are registered nurses who educate and care for patients who have cancer.
- Social workers. These workers help people cope with their illness.
- Pharmacists. They are the people who are professionally qualified to dispense and prepare medicinal drugs.
- Remove the cancer
- Reduce any uncomfortable symptoms
- Prevent the spread of cancer
- The overall health of the patient
- Other medical conditions of the patient
- Additional medications that the patient is taking
- Potential side effects of the treatment
- The nutritional status and social support of the patient
- Surgery. Surgery is an operation that includes the removal of tumors and some surrounding tissues. This is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer.
- Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy kills cancer cells with the use of high-energy gamma rays or x-rays. It is commonly used to treat rectal cancer because rectal cancer usually recurs near where it originally started.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is used to keep cancer cells from dividing, growing, and making more cells. It uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Before surgery, chemotherapy is used to reduce the size of the rectal tumor. After surgery, the use of chemotherapy is to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.
- Targeted Therapy. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the specific proteins, genes, or tissue environment that contributes to the growth and survival of cancer.
- Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy or biological therapy is designed to boost the natural defenses of the body to fight cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy that is used to treat colorectal cancer.
A Closer Look: How Does Colorectal Cancer Start?
The majority of colorectal cancers begin as polyps or the growth in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Not all polyps can become cancer, but some types of polyps change into cancer over time.
Factors that can make a polyp become cancer or increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer include:
- If more than three polyps are found in the colon or the rectum
- If a polyp is larger than 1cm is discovered
- If dysplasia or abnormal growth or development of cells or organs is developed
What are the types of Colorectal Cancer?
To properly know the treatment options for colon cancer, it should be diagnosed according to its type.
- Adenocarcinomas. More than 95% of all colorectal cancer are adenocarcinomas. These cancers start in the cells that make fluids to lubricate the colon and rectum.
- Other much less common types of colorectal cancer include:
- Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors. These form in the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
- Primary colorectal lymphomas. Lymphoma is the cancer of the immune system cells. It commonly starts in the lymph nodes, but it can also begin in the rectum, colon, and any organ of the body.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). These start in the interstitial cells of Cajal, a particular cell in the wall of the colon.
- Sarcomas may begin in the blood vessels, muscle layers, or other connective tissues in the colon and the rectum wall.
- Metastatic colorectal cancer is that which spread to other parts of the body. It commonly goes to the liver but may also travel to the bone, lungs, or brain.
- Recurrent colorectal cancer returns to the same part of the colon or rectum where it was initially diagnosed.
Who Can Get Colorectal Cancer?
About 149,500 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2021, per the American Cancer Society’s estimate.
Some risk factors in developing the disease include:
- Colorectal cancer is much more common after age 50.
- Race and ethnicity. Those with African-American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are more at risk of colorectal cancer.
- Family history of colorectal cancer. As many as 1 in 3 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it.
- History of polyps. People with a history of polyps, especially if they were numerous, large, or showed abnormal noncancerous cells (dysplasia), are at risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Type 2 diabetes. People with non-insulin-dependent diabetes have an increased risk of colorectal cancer. They also have a less favorable outlook or prognosis after diagnosis.
A Closer Look: The Colon
Being familiar with the structure and function of the colon helps patients understand where cancer is located and how colorectal cancer treatment can be applied.
The large intestine (large bowel) is made up of the colon and rectum. The colon is about 5 feet long. It helps digest food. It also absorbs water and nutrients from the remaining food matter. After absorbing what the body needs, it then sends the waste to the rectum, the final few inches of the intestine.
The parts of the colon are named by which way the food is traveling:
- Ascending colon. It begins with a pouch called the cecum, where undigested food enters from the small intestine and continues upward to the right side of the belly.
- Transverse colon. The transverse colon goes across the body from the right to the left side.
- Descending colon. It travels down on the left side.
- Sigmoid colon.It’s called the sigmoid colon because of its “S” shape. It joins the rectum, which is then connected to the anus.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
In the earliest stages of colon cancer, there are no symptoms. However, as cancer progresses, the following symptoms can be noticed:
- Occurrence of blood in the stool
- Continuing changes in bowel habits, including experiencing: Diarrhea or having loose, watery stool three or more times a day or Constipation which is fewer than three bowel movements a week
- A feeling of bowels not emptied completely
- Constant discomfort in the abdominal area such as cramps
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Persistent fatigue or body weaknesses
Stages of Colon Cancer
The stages of cancer indicate the size of any tumor or how far cancer has spread throughout the body. Treatments will also depend on the stage of cancer. For a proper diagnosis of what a patient can do to alleviate the illness, these stages are explained and pried.
Stages of colon cancer include:
- Stage 0. Also known as carcinoma in situ, a very early stage of cancer. In this stage, cancer has not grown in the inner layer of the colon or rectum.
- Stage 1. Cancer has now spread to the next layer of tissue but has not reached the lymph nodes of other organs.
- Stage 2. Cancer already reached the outer layers of the colon but not beyond it.
- Stage 3. Cancer has grown through the outer layers of the colon or rectum and has breached one to three lymph nodes.
- Stage 4.Cancer already reached other tissues beyond the colon, including distant parts of the body.
Want to Discuss Treatment Options With All American Hospice?
If you or anyone you know is diagnosed with colorectal cancer and needs assistance, please contact All American Hospice. We have an array of professionals who can offer support to take care of you or your patient adequately.