Colon Cancer Treatment in 1999
Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States; however, when detected early, it is often curable with today’s array of therapies. There are many factors associated with colorectal cancer such as:
- Age–this cancer is most likely to occur as people get older
- Diet–development of colorectal cancer seems to be associated with a diet that is high in fat and calories, and low in foods with fiber
- Polyps–benign growths on the inner wall of the colon and rectum
- Personal History–history of your health
- Family History–history of first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children)
- Ulcerative Colitis–condition on which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed; people who have ulcerative colitis are more likely to develop colorectal cancer
Common signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
- A change in bowel habits
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Blood in the stool (either bright red or very dark in color)
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
- Weight loss with no known reason
- Constant tiredness
These symptoms are often caused by other conditions, so it is important to check with a doctor.
Occurring in both men and women, most often in those over the age of 50, the three main types of treatment are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Depending on the stage of the cancer, two or even three of these treatments may be combined, or given one after the other.
Most colon cancer patients will undergo surgery. The main type is called a segmental resection, which removes the cancerous tissue, a portion of normal tissue on either side of it, and nearby lymph nodes. The remaining sections of the intestine are then reattached to each other.
This form of therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. External beam radiation is delivered from outside the body, while local radiation therapy–called brachytherapy–uses a small pellet of radioactive material implanted directly into the cancerous tissue. Sometimes radiation therapy is given after surgery to destroy any left-over cancer cells. Sometimes it is given before surgery to shrink tumors that are large or difficult to reach surgically. Radiation is also used to alleviate symptoms of advanced cancer, such as intestinal blockages, bleeding or pain.
Chemotherapy is anticancer medication given by mouth or intravenously. Since these drugs travel throughout the body, chemotherapy can treat cancer that has spread beyond the colon. The most often used drug is fluorouracil, often called 5-FU. It is usually given together with other drugs that can increase its effectiveness, including leucovorin or levamisole. Irinotecan is often used to treat patients who are no longer responding to 5-FU.
The treatment corresponds to the stage of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
|Stage 0: Cancer has not grown beyond the inner lining of the colon, therefore surgery alone can be effective.Stage I: Cancer has grown through several layers of the colon, but has not spread outside the colon. Surgery alone is the standard therapy.|
Stage II: Cancer has spread to nearby tissue but not to lymph nodes. Surgery alone may be recommended, or can be combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to prevent recurrences (usually under a clinical research trial protocol).
Stage III: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but not beyond. Surgery followed by chemotherapy is recommended.
Stage IV: Cancer has metastasized to other organs. Surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy are not expected to cure the cancer, but may be performed to prolong life and ease symptoms.
Through the collaborative efforts of the cancer centers throughout the Health Alliance, patients and their families receive the most comprehensive and highest quality cancer care available. Our continued commitment to provide the best possible patient care includes clinical research studies, programs of cancer prevention, cancer information services, commitment to community services and outreach activities, programs of research training and continuing education for health care professionals.
The Health Alliance continues to be a leader in cancer care using a multidisciplinary approach in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. Our diverse health care team includes physicians and specialists in all areas of cancer care including medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, gynecological oncology, as well as nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists and many others.
In addition, Health Alliance physicians and world-renowned cancer researchers in our facilities offer internationally recognized services in neuro-oncology, head and neck oncology, stem cell transplantation and clinical cancer research. The Health Alliance offers a holistic approach to cancer care, not only recognizing the physical needs of our patients, but also recognizing and supporting the emotional and spiritual needs of them and their families.
The Health Alliance is an integrated health care delivery system which includes The Christ Hospital, The University Hospital, The St. Luke Hospitals, The Jewish Hospital, The Fort Hamilton Hospital and the physicians of Alliance Primary Care.
If you’d like more information on colon cancer, including information about cancer treatment, screening, prevention, supportive care and clinical trials, please contact one of our facilities.
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