Cancer is often treated by a team of specialists including an oncologist, a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and other medical staff members. The doctors may decide to use one treatment method or a combination of methods. The choice of treatment depends on many things, including the type, location and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s general health and other factors.
In most cases, treatments for colon cancer may include:
- Surgery, most often a colectomy (the surgical resection of any extent of
the large intestine), to remove cancer cells
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
- Radiation therapy to destroy cancerous tissue
Stage 0 colon cancer may be treated by removing the cancer cells, often during a colonoscopy. For stages I, II and III cancers, more extensive surgery is needed to remove the part of the colon that is cancerous.
Nearly all patients with stage III colon cancer will receive chemotherapy after surgery for approximately six to eight months. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil has been shown to increase the chance of a cure in certain patients.
Chemotherapy is also used to improve symptoms and prolong survival in patients with stage IV colon cancer.
Although radiation therapy is occasionally used for patients with colon cancer, it is usually used in combination with chemotherapy for patients with stage III rectal cancer.
For patients with stage IV disease that has spread to the liver, various treatments directed specifically at the liver can be used. This may include:
- Burning the cancer (ablation)
- Delivering chemotherapy or radiation directly into the liver
- Freezing the cancer (cryotherapy)