How is Colon Cancer Treated?
Treatment for colon cancer depends upon what stage it was discovered. Initial screenings like colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies can detect pre-cancerous tumors in the colon. Pre-cancerous tumors can be removed and tested for cancer. These preventative screenings are essential in preventing and delaying the diagnosis of colon cancer.
At stage 0, colon cancer is found only in the innermost lining of the colon. Treatment for colon cancer at this stage usually involves a polypectomy, which is the removal of the tumor and small amounts of the surrounding tissue.
More extensive surgery to remove larger tumors may also be required. This procedure, known an anastomosis, removes the diseased part of the colon and then reattaches the healthy tissue in order to maintain bowel function. Surgery that removes all of the cancer is considered curative.
At stage I, colon cancer tumors have moved beyond the inner lining of the colon to the second and third layers and the inside walls of the colon. The metastatic colon cancer has not spread to the outer wall of the colon or outside the colon. Standard metastatic colon cancer treatments for stage I involves surgery to remove the cancerous cells and a small amount of tissue surrounding the tumor. At this stage, additional treatment is not usually needed. Aggressive surgery to remove cancer offers excellent potential for cure.
At stage II, colorectal cancers are more substantial and extend through the muscular wall of the colon. In these cases, there is no cancer found in the lymph nodes, which are small nodes that produce cells of the immune system. If cancer gets into the lymph system, it can spread quickly and infect other areas of the body, making treatment complicated. Standard treatment at stage II is surgical removal of the cancerous cells and any area surrounding it.
Chemotherapy may also be used as a precaution against cancer recurrence. However, 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, colon cancer has spread to areas outside the colon to one or more lymph nodes, and tumors have grown through the colon wall and has spread to surrounding tissue. Metastatic colon cancer treatments include surgery to remove the tumor and all involved lymph nodes if possible. After surgery, the patient will receive chemotherapy. Radiation may also be needed if the tumor is large and invading the tissue surrounding the colon.
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