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How is colorectal cancer treated?

Treatment for colorectal cancer is more likely to be effective when the disease is found early. The choice of treatment depends mainly on the location of the tumor in the colon or rectum and the stage (extent) of the disease. Doctors describe colorectal cancer by stage of the disease. The stage is based on whether the tumor has invaded nearby tissues, whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Treatment for colorectal cancer may involve surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy or some combination thereof.

There are a variety of surgeries that can be employed if you've been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Endoscopic surgery can be used to remove the smallest of polyps. A colectomy—the most common operation for colon cancer—involves the removal of both the cancer and the surrounding colon. If the tumor is in the rectum, a proctectomy may be required, which will eventually necessitate the use of a colostomy bag for the removal of solid waste. This is only required, however, in a small number of cases.

Radiation therapy, meanwhile, is not used in the case of colon cancer, but is used with rectal cancer. More often, chemotherapy is used as a treatment for colon cancer, and for rectal cancer as well.

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There are four main types of treatment for colorectal cancer. These include:

1. Surgery

2. Radiation therapy:

  • Image-guided radiation therapy
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy
  • CyberKnife

3. Chemotherapy

4. Cancer immunotherapy

Depending on the stage of your cancer, one or several of these treatment types may be used.

The choice of treatment depends mainly on the location of the tumor in the colon or rectum and the stage of the disease. Treatment for colorectal cancer may involve surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and ablation or embolization. Some people have a combination of treatments.

Colon cancer sometimes is treated differently from rectal cancer.

Treatment for colon cancer:

  • Most patients with colon cancer are treated with surgery to remove cancerous growths. If the cancer is in a later stage, chemotherapy may be used. In more advanced stages, surgery must be used with chemotherapy, radiation therapy (which may be used to kill cancer cells or to relieve symptoms), targeted therapy (use of substances that target cancer cells), embolization of the hepatic artery (if the cancer has spread to the liver) and other treatments related to the spread of the cancer.
  • A colostomy is seldom needed for people with colon cancer.
  • For all stages of rectal cancer, surgery is the most common treatment. Some patients receive surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Some with advanced disease get biological therapy.
  • About 1 out of 8 people with rectal cancer needs a permanent colostomy.
  • Radiation therapy may be used before and after surgery. Some people have radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the tumor, and some have it after surgery to kill cancer cells that may remain in the area. At some hospitals, patients may have radiation therapy during surgery. People also may have radiation therapy to relieve pain and other problems caused by the cancer.

This answer is based on source information from National Cancer Institute.

Once colorectal cancer has been diagnosed, there are three basic lines of treatment: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Depending on the advancement, or stage, of the cancer and where it is located in the body, one or more of these options may be used at different points in the course of treatment.

Colorectal cancer is usually treated with surgery first, depending on the cancer's stage and on whether it has affected the lymph nodes. Chemotherapy often follows surgery to keep the cancer from coming back in other parts of the body. Radiation therapy may then be used in conjunction with chemo to keep the cancer from returning.

Dr. Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgeon

Colorectal cancer is treated with a multidisciplinary team approach with a combination of surgery plus or minus adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy depending on location and stage.

Dr. Daniel Labow, MD
Surgical Oncologist

Colon cancer is treated with surgery alone when early, surgery and chemotherapy when more advances and different combinations when metastatic. Rectal cancer, cancer towards the anus are usually treated with radiation and chemotherapy first, then surgery. Often this depends on the location of the tumor and how advanced or not the cancer is.
 

Colon cancer can be treated by three different modalities depending on the stage of the cancer's progression. These modalities include surgery to remove cancer cells, radiation therapy to destroy cancerous tissue, and chemotherapy to kill cancer cells.

There are many ways to treat colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer or bowel cancer. Colorectal cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Most people with colorectal cancer have surgery to remove the part of the bowel that has the tumor.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells, while radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill cancer cells and can be used to help some people with bowel cancer who cannot be treated with surgery.

Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor. They also help get rid of any cancer cells that are left behind after surgery.

Different types of treatment are available for patients with colon cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

The treatment for colon cancer depends on the stage the cancer is caught:

  • Stage 1: Removing diseased section of colon may be enough
  • Stage 2: Surgery; chemotherapy likelier than in stage 1
  • Stage 3: More-extensive surgery; chemotherapy and other medications
  • Stage 4: Surgery on colon and distant organs; chemotherapy, cryosurgery
Juliet Wilkinson
Oncology Nursing Specialist

Colon cancer is treated through a variety of methods—foremost being surgery to remove the cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used in conjunction with surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence and metastasis. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on your cancer, lymph node involvement (stage and grade) and current physical health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.