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Things to Expect Before, During & After Colon Cancer Treatment

The treatment plan for colon cancer is created based on several factors including the type and stage of cancer, patient’s health, age and preference. The doctor and patients discuss all the benefits and risks of each procedure to determine the suitable plan for the patient’s treatment.

Things to Expect:

Before the Treatment

Once the patient is diagnosed with colon cancer, his/her condition will be further analyzed for staging cancer, based on these results; a treatment approach will be selected.

The patient will be recommended to follow a certain type of diet until their treatment to prevent any delays because of any health conditions. 

The patient will consult with their doctor, about different treatment options, and based on their current health condition, age, lifestyle, preference and medical history; a personalized treatment plan will be created for them.

Patients can also seek a second opinion at this stage if they do not agree with the treatment plan suggested by their doctor. 

During the Treatment

Colon Cancer can be treated via the following methods:

Targeted Therapy: Certain advanced drugs and substances are used in targeted therapy for attacking cancer cells without causing damage to nearby healthy cells. There are two forms of targeted therapies –

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors – help in preventing the new blood vessels from growing or stopping the tumour’s growth.
  • Monoclonal Antibodies – These antibodies are formed with the use of only one type of immune system. These antibodies are mutated to identify and attack certain types of substances like cancer cells or other cells that might be helping in the development of cancer cells. These antibodies get attached to the cancerous substances destroying them and preventing them from spreading further.

Chemotherapy: uses anti-cancerous drugs for stopping and preventing the growth of cancer, while also destroying them in the process. Chemotherapy can be delivered orally or via IV directly into the bloodstream, that helps the drug in travelling through the entire body.

Radiation Therapy: uses High-energy beams for destroying cancer tumours. It can be delivered via Internal or external radiation. A radioactive substance which is sealed in catheters, seeds or needles wires and placed inside closely to the affected organ is called internal radiation therapy. On the other hand, when linear accelerators are used from outside the body to direct radiation waves on the body part that is affected by cancer is called external radiation. The type of radiation delivered to the patient will vary according to the size of their tumour and the stage of their cancer. 

Surgery: is the surgical procedure performed for removing the cancerous portion from the including the surrounding tissues, lymph nodes and sufficient margins. These are the following types of surgeries performed to treat colon cancer:

Pelvic Exenteration: involves the removal of the bladder, lower rectum, and colon in cases in which cancer has already spread to nearby organs like the rectum. In the case of females, nearby vagina, lymph nodes, ovaries or cervix are removed. The prostate can be removed in case of males if cancer has spread there. An artificial opening is designed for the excretion of urine and stool from the body during the procedure.

Polypectomy: During a colonoscopy procedure, the polyps are removed if cancerous cells are found inside it.

Resection: In this procedure, the portion affected by cancer in the rectum will be removed with the nearby healthy tissues when the cancerous cells have started spreading to the rectum walls.

Local Excision: The tumour and its surrounding healthy tissues are removed in this procedure when the cancer is spread on the inside portion of the rectum and but not on the rectum wall.

Sometimes radiotherapy or chemotherapy is given to the patients before or after the surgery to shrink the tumour and prevent the growth of cancer cells. This helps in making the tumour removal surgery more easier while simultaneously reducing the problems faced related to bowel control management after the surgery. The process of delivering these therapies before the surgery is called Neoadjuvant therapy.

After the Treatment

Colorectal cancer can be treated when diagnosed in earlier stages. With early detection, the majority of people are able to live at least five years after their diagnosis. If cancer does not return during this duration, the patient is considered to be cured, especially if they received treatment in the first three stages for colon cancer.

Things to follow after Colon Cancer Treatment

  • Regular Cancer Checkup
  • Exercise daily
  • Quit Smoking/ Drinking
  • Follow a healthy diet

Recovery after Colon Cancer

The recovery time taken by each patient will depend on the type of treatment received by the patient. Patients undergoing surgery might be sent home a week after surgery; or they might be scheduled for radiotherapy or chemotherapy, which might extend their treatment.

If the patient is being treated solely via chemotherapy or radiation therapy, he/she might have to follow the treatment for a couple of months; after which depending on the symptoms of the treatment, they can take a few weeks to recover from cancer medically, physically and emotionally. 

Prevention

Some medical drugs have been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer and precancerous polyps. Although, there is not enough evidence on how these drugs can help in elimination of any percentage of the risk.

For instance, in some cases, it was discovered that the consumption of aspirin and aspirin-like drugs could reduce the growth of polyps. But the ideal duration and the effective dose of these medicines are still unclear.

And taking aspirin daily can lead to some health risks like ulcer and GI bleeding, so it is not typically recommended by healthcare professionals.   

Sources: 
https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/colorectal-cancer/types-treatment
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4874655/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colon-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353674

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