About Colorectal Cancer
The four main types of treatment for colorectal cancer are:
- Radiation therapy
- Chemotherapy (often call just "chemo")
- Targeted therapies (called monoclonal antibodies)
The treatment options available to you depend on the type, location and stage of your colorectal cancer. Your healthcare team will also consider your age, general health, pre-existing diseases or conditions, and your ability to tolerate the side effects of treatment.
These treatment options may be used alone or in combination with each other, depending on the extent of the cancer to achieve more effective results.
Surgery is often the main treatment for early stage colon cancer. The surgery is called a colectomy or a segmental resection. Usually the cancer and a piece of normal colon on either side of the cancer (as well as nearby lymph nodes) are removed.
Surgery is usually the main treatment for rectal cancer, too, although radiation and chemo will often be given before or after surgery. There are several types of surgery for rectal cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor, plus enough tissues that appears free of cancer around it to be reasonably sure that no cancer cells are left behind.
Radiation therapy is the use of a certain type of energy to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy injures or destroys cells in the area being treated. Our machine, Trilogy with Rapid Arc, is so sophisticated that only the tumor itself received the radiation, and surrounding tissues are spared, resulting in fewer side effects. The goal of radiation treatment is the complete destruction of an entire tumor. In other cases, the aim is to shrink a tumor and relieve symptoms. In either case, doctors plan treatment specific to your needs. To learn more about Radiation Oncology, click on the Oncology Services tab, and then Radiation Oncology.
Chemotherapy uses strong chemicals or drugs to kill cancer cells, stop their reproduction, or slow their growth. There are many kinds of chemotherapy drugs and they may be given in combination with each other, and also in combination with surgery and radiation. A medical oncologist will be coordinating these treatments with you.
Chemotherapy is sometimes used before surgery to try to shrink the cancer and make surgery easier. It may also be given after surgery because it can increase the survival rate for patients with some stages of colorectal cancer. Chemotherapy can also help relieve symptoms of advanced cancer and help people live longer.
Even though chemotherapy drugs may be administered intravenously, or taken orally in tablets, capsules, or liquid form, most chemotherapy for colorectal cancer is given intravenously. Chemotherapy is called systemic therapy because it treats the entire body, or system. Chemotherapy can kill cancer cells that have metastasized from the original tumor because it travels through the blood system to all parts of the body. The amount of chemotherapy a patient receives depends on the type of cancer, the drugs, and the patient’s overall response to treatment. This therapy may be given daily, weekly, or monthly and can continue for months or possibly years. Some drugs may be given in cycles, with rest periods between treatments to allow for the body to recover.