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Colon Cancer Treatment

The incidence of carcinoma of the colon increases with age. The older the subject gets, the more malignancies begin to appear. Symptoms are often slow in developing but that does not diminish the seriousness of these occurrences. Cancer patients usually report fatigue, which is primarily caused by iron deficiency anemia. In the early stages, minor changes in bowel patterns and occasional bleeding may occur. The most commonly reported symptoms that occur as the condition advances are abdominal pain, obstruction, tenesmus (the feeling that you constantly need to pass stools, even though your bowels are already empty) and rectal bleeding.

Colon cancer in the elderly has been closely associated with dietary carcinogens. Lack of fiber is a major causative factor because the passage of feces through the intestinal tract is prolonged, which extends exposure to possible carcinogens. Excess fat is also believed to alter bacterial flora and convert steroids into compounds that have carcinogenic properties.

The treatment and or management of colon cancer depends on how far the metastasis has spread. That is why early detection is so important. If the cancer is caught in its early stages, it can be stopped. Once it reaches the latter stages, the prognosis is not so good. The three main treatments for colon cancer are surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. 1


Surgery is typically the initial treatment if the cancer has not spread too far. If the cancerous lump is discovered early it can be surgically removed and the prognosis for complete recovery is good. If the cancer has metastasized to an adjacent section of the colon, than a larger section of the colon will have to be removed in order to keep the cancer from spreading further. Sometime the affected section is too large and the entire colon has to be removed. In those cases, a hole is opened in the side so that a colostomy bag can be attached which mimics the functions of the colon.

Advances in surgical techniques can enable the patient with cancer to have sphincter-saving devices that restore continuity of the GI tract. The type of surgery recommended depends on the location and size of the tumor. Cancers limited to one site can be removed through the use of a colonoscope. Laparoscopic colostomy with polypectomy minimizes the extent of surgery needed. A laparoscope is used to make an incision into the colon and the tumor mass is then removed.

Bowel resection is indicated for most class A lesions and all class B and C lesions. Surgery is sometimes recommended for class D colon cancer, but the goal of surgery in this instance is palliative (any form of medical care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of disease symptoms, rather than striving to halt, delay, or reverse progression of the disease). If the tumor has spread and involves surrounding vital structures, it is considered nonresectable. 2


Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to decrease the chances that any cancer cells that were left after the surgery do not start growing again and metastasize to new areas of the body. Chemotherapy is also the option used when the tumor is located too close to vital organs and cannot be removed by surgery. The term chemotherapy increasingly restricted to the treatment of cancer with antimetabolites and similar drugs such as cytotoxic drugs.

Cytotoxic drugs that damage or destroys cells usually refers to those drugs used to treat various types of cancer. There are various classes of cytotoxic drugs, including alkylating agents such as

chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide and

melphalan, anti-metabolites like fluorouracil, methotrexate and mercaptopurine , the anthracycline antibiotics, doxorubicin, daunorubicin, dactinomycin. Others include the vinca alkaloids and platinum compounds, carboplatin and cisplatin.

These drugs can be an effective treatment in some cases and help reduce symptoms and prolong life in others. Cytotoxic drugs destroys cancer cells by interfering with cell division, but they also affect normal cells, causing side effects, particularly in bone marrow, skin, stomach lining, and fetal tissue. Because of these side effects, the dosage must be carefully monitored.


Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can be used prior to and after surgery. In some cases it is used jointly with chemotherapy in order to enhance its efficiency. Radiotherapy is a therapeutic radiology,the treatment of disease with penetrating radiation such as x-rays, beta rays, or gamma rays which maybe produced by machines or given off by radioactive isotopes. Beams of radiation may be directed at the diseased location from a distance, or the radioactive material can be administered by needles, or pellets that are implanted in the tumor. There are many types of cancer that can be destroyed by radiotherapy.

There is a precise therapy for each phase of colon cancer. At the earliest detection of polyps or problems in the colon, the polyps can be removed to determine if they are cancerous. In stage 1 the cancer can be removed surgically. In stage 2, all three therapies (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) may be performed in concert to remove the cancer. If the cancer has reached stage 4, far more radical surgery is performed that may include the removal of adjacent organs in their entirety in order to completely remove the cancer that has spread.

It is far better to start taking care of your colon as soon as you can so that you can avoid the more radical treatments that are required once cancer has developed. The natural colon cleansing therapies take on much more importance when lined up against the possibility of surgery. When dealing with the colon, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! 4

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Colon Cancer Treatment