Colon cancer is a serious condition which is treated according to the progression stage. There are 5 stages of this type of cancer, from 0 to 4. Stage 0 indicates the condition when the cancer affects only epithelial tissue of the colon. Stage 1 colon cancer affects the middle layers of the colon, while stage 2 cancer moved even further, sometimes affecting surrounding tissue. Colon cancer found in stage 3 is one which affected at least 3 lymph nodes, and stage 4 is the last stage of colon cancer. In stage 4, cancer has spread to other parts of the body, usually to lungs and liver.
Treatments for Colon Cancer
There are three options for the treatment of colon cancer, and doctors can decide between surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They will base their choice of treatment on the stage of the cancer. Found in stages 0 and 1, colon cancer is usually treated with surgery and drugs, while stages 2, 3 and 4 need surgery and chemotherapy.
Surgical treatment involves removal of the tumor from the
colon, while radiotherapy uses X-rays to kill cancerous cells in the colon.
Chemotherapy is the treatment in which doctors use certain medications to kill uncontrollably dividing cells in the colon. One of the most frequently used medications for the cancer colon chemotherapy is 5-fluorouracil (or just 5-FU). Chemotherapy drugs can be given orally, or as intravenous injection or pump, but these drugs all have the same function, which is to shrink the tumor as much as possible and to relieve some of the cancer symptoms.
Types of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can be primary, adjuvant or neoadjuvant. Primary chemotherapy is used to treat advanced stages of colon cancer, when it has metastasized to other organs in the body. In this case, medications are patient’s only options to potentially cure the cancer, because the drugs may extensively decrease the number of cancerous cells.
Adjuvant chemotherapy is used after the surgical removal of the colon cancer, in order to affect cancer cells left in the body.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is given before the surgical removal of the colon cancer. It is used to decrease the risks of surgical procedure.
Adverse Effects of Chemotherapy
Usually, patients receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer report nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, blood-related problems and eye defects.
Diarrhea can be a very serious thing during the chemotherapy, and patients are advised to drink plenty of water and some other non-alcoholic drinks. Doctors may even prescribe some medications to ease this problem.
Eye problems, such as grittiness or irritation of the eyes are usually resolved with some saline drops.
Mouth sores are common problem for these patients, and they can be avoided by rinsing out the mouth with saline solution several times a day.
Blood problems may also occur, including anemia, weakened immune system and easily bruising and bleeding.