Colon cancer treatment
Colon cancer starts in the cells of the colon or rectum and grows from there. Most of the time, this is because of polyps in the intestines. Symptoms don't show up immediately, and they can be anything from abdominal discomfort to blood in the stool. There are many ways to cure cancer, like surgical resection and chemotherapy, and newer methods, like robotic surgery and radiotherapy with a needle.
We know that you are here to find the best colon cancer treatment centers in the world that can help. However, it’s essential to know some nuances first.
The tumor in the large intestine is the growth of changed cells in the colon’s lining. Most of the time, the cancer is from an "intestinal polyp." And the type of cancer is based on how it grows:
- An exophytic one grows inside the intestine's wall.
- Endophytic growth happens directly in the wall.
- The neoplasm extends into the thickness and lumen of the large intestine, showing that it is saucer-shaped.
Depending on the cell type, colon cancer can be adenocarcinoma, colloid, or undifferentiated. The localization of cancer in the colon:
- appendix (cecum);
- right bend;
- proximal transverse colon;
- middle transverse colon;
- distal colon transverse;
- left bend;
- colon descendent;
- proximal, middle, and distal sigmoid.
What are the treatment options for colon cancer also depend on where the tumor is.
Some numbers for statistics.
Colorectal cancer is one of the world's three most common types. It happens more often to men than women, and most people get it after they turn 70. On average, one out of every 25 women and one out of every 23 men will get colorectal cancer. The large intestine is where about two-thirds of diseases start.
What causes cancer of the intestines?
The polyp is a harmless growth on the intestine lining that sticks out into the intestine. The good news is that not all polyps change; only 5–10% of them will become cancer. The bad news is that most colon cancers begin as polyps, so don’t ignore colon cancer screening.
Colon cancer is also one of the leading causes of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Long-term inflammation changes the cells, turning healthy ones into cancerous ones.
Also, about one in four cases, or around 20% of colorectal cancer, are passed down from parent to child. The reasons for such situations are genetic disorders and gene mutations. In these cases, the disease usually starts young and has a worse outlook.
Some significant risk factors make colon cancer more likely, such as age. Most people don't get sick until their 70s, and only about 10% get colon cancer before age 55. And the treatment of colon cancer in the elderly has its features.
Other factors that increase the risk are:
- Too little exercise;
- Being overweight;
- Drinking too much alcohol;
- Overeating red meat.
If you have one or more risks and still feel healthy, it’s time to perform a check-up. Or wait until the search for treatments for colon cancer.
First indications of colon cancer for attentive people
In its early stages, colon cancer usually has few or no signs. Often, it isn't found until late in the process, when serious problems have already drawn attention. When there is much damage to the colon, patients notice the following signs:
- Blood in the stool after going to the bathroom;
- Latent bleeding (a positive test for hidden blood);
- Rectal bleeding (happens often);
- Changes in the way you defecate (alternating between diarrhea and constipation);
- Feeling like you didn't go all the way;
- Constant diarrhea;
- Long-term stomach pain and cramps;
- Abdominal pain with a buildup of gas and stool, which is a sign of a blockage in the digestive tract;
- Nausea and being sick;
- Urges to go to the bathroom and inability to go;
Weight loss, anemia, weakness, and not wanting to eat are all signs (when treatment for late-stage colon cancer is needed).
Colon tumors can grow in any part of the intestine, but more than 70% of the time, the rectum is where the first signs appear. If you have any of these signs, you should see a doctor until not looking for the best treatment for stage 4 colon cancer.
What are diagnostic evidence-based options available?
Regarding treatment, it is vital to catch colorectal cancer in its early stages. Because of this, it is crucial to avoid getting the disease and get regular screening tests, particularly for those at a higher risk, have a complicated family history, or are over 50.
A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a way to check for blood in the stool that can't be seen. But cancer or polyps aren't the only things that can cause a positive stool test. Bleeding from the gums and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract or even eating red meat can cause a positive test.
A colonoscopy is the safest way to determine if someone has colon cancer. The doctor puts an endoscope, which looks like a flexible tube, into the anus and looks for changes in the rectum, the large intestine, and maybe even the last part of the small intestine. There is evidence that total colonoscopy reduces morbidity (66–90% reduction compared to the general population) and mortality (31–65%) of colon cancer.
During the manipulation, the doctor takes a few tissue fragments (biopsy) from places that are easy to see. If possible, polyps are taken out with an endoscope. Then the expert looks at the removed tissue through a microscope.
If there is a tight spot inside the bowel, the endoscope may not be able to get through. The intestine is then shown on a computer scan (CT). Suppose the results are unclear, or cancer has extended to other organs. In that case, a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis is also performed. Oncologists recommend a PET CT scan to check for disease progression before cancer has spread to other body parts.
For example, an X-ray of the lungs and an ultrasound scan can rule out or find secondary metastases in the lymph nodes and other organs in the abdomen. Using modern ways to determine if someone has bowel cancer allows us to avoid nearly 90% of cases.
All these procedures help oncologists plan the treatment of colon cancer by stage.
After a thorough diagnosis, a doctor puts a tumor into one of five stages:
- In stage 0, the cancer is only on the surface and is just a sign of what is to come.
- In stage I, the malignant tissue is only in the top layers of the intestine wall.
- In stage II, the malignant process has also spread to the layers below the surface of the intestinal wall.
- In stage III, cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or grown into the intestine tissue.
- In stage IV, secondary tumors exist in other organs (distant metastases).
Colon cancer treatment options
How colon cancer is treated depends greatly on how far along it is. The tumor's location in the bowel also makes a difference.
Operation: When cancer is still in its early stages, a piece of the intestine that has cancer can usually be removed surgically. It can be classic surgery for colon cancer treatment or surgery without cuts (laparoscopic). The optimal way to treat colorectal diseases is with DaVinci robotic colon surgery. This method combines the best parts of open surgery and minimally invasive surgical procedures.
Chemotherapy: If lymph nodes are already affected, or the tumor has spread to nearby organs, additional treatment with drugs that stop cell growth can be helpful. It is also used as the treatment for colon cancer after surgery. Chemotherapy drugs kill any remaining bowel cancer cells that are too small for imaging techniques to find.
Immunotherapy is a way to get the patient's immune system to fight against the cancerous tissues in the colon. How many chemotherapy treatments are for colon cancer depends on the type of tumor, its size, and disease phase.
Target therapy: Recently, specialists have used new drugs to treat colorectal cancer patients. These are substances that attack the tumor in a specific way. This method is more "targeted" at cancer than standard chemo and shows better results. That’s why it is used in cases of advanced colon cancer symptoms treatment is required.
Interventional radiology has developed new ways to treat local problems more innovatively.
Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) is a method to send chemo drugs directly to the area where the cancer is. And when the blood supply to the artery stops (called "embolization"), some of the cancer cells die. Transarterial chemoperfusion is a non-invasive treatment of bowel cancer and metastases with radiation. This method sends chemo drugs to the tumor through the arteries. So, many active substances can build up in a small area.
Radiation therapy: During radiation therapy, high-energy radiation damages tumor cells so much that they can't divide anymore and die off after a while. Brachytherapy, also called "internal radiotherapy," is a form of radiation treatment. It is used against colorectal cancer, which involves putting radioactive drugs directly into the colon, either temporarily or permanently.
With the help of protons, proton therapy is a very accurate and much less painful way to treat colon cancer.
The type of treatment depends on how far the disease has spread and where the tumor is. Most of the time, surgery is the best choice, along with radiation and chemotherapy.
When colon cancer has reached a later stage, it is vital to use targeted treatment. This is an additional and alternative treatment for stage 4 colon cancer.
The cancer stage also affects whether or not chemotherapy is used to treat it. When other parts of the body are invaded by cancer cells, it is called metastasis. Some people with stage IV cancer can have surgery to remove individual metastases and small tumor areas.
What is colon cancer’s alternative treatment?
In some cases, patients need something other than the traditional methods of surgery, radiation, and drug therapy. We talk about these point-of-view techniques:
- Local chemo (e.g., TACE) as noticed above;
- Hyperthermia, in which heating devices help to raise the temperature near the tumor to kill it;
- Cancer vaccines with dendritic cells are a safe and nontoxic experimental treatment for metastatic cancer;
- HIPEC and PIPAC surgeries as alternatives for peritoneal metastases of colon cancer;
- Electrochemotherapy, in which electrical voltage makes holes in the cell membranes of tumor cells so that cytostatic drugs can get inside. It makes drugs much more potent in their effects.
The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) was also mentioned as an alternative treatment for colon cancer. This includes herbal medicine, homeopathy, vitamins and minerals, spiritual therapies, medicinal teas, and relaxation methods.
How much does colon cancer treatment cost?
How to answer this question depends on several things. There's the type of tumor, the stage of the disease, diagnostic tests (MRI, CT, PET CT, tumor markers, biopsy, etc.), and the actual treatment (surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and other methods we listed above).
Also, the cost of colon cancer treatment includes help with visas, housing, translation, and other things. At AiroMedical, we're ready to help organize the whole process and do it for an affordable price.
The outlook for cancerous growths in the colon
In most countries, there is a fast rise in new cases of colorectal cancer and a "revival" of old issues. But the person can recover because of advances in medical technology, diagnostics, and treatment methods. In Western European countries, the possibility of living for five years varies from 54 to 56%. It depends significantly on getting treatment and treating the whole person.
Especially in contrast to 20 years ago, the number of people who died from colorectal cancer has decreased by more than 50%. All of this is because screening worked well and was done on time.
Colon cancer has a high 5-year survival rate, but it depends on the stage:
Stages 0 - I - 91%;
Stages II - III - 72%;
Stage IV - 15%.
How can you realize if you have a tumor in your colon?
The first symptoms of colon cancer may not show up until the disease is already far along. At first, the person may feel sick, lose weight, or have a fever. Damage to the more severe intestine causes abdominal pain, trouble going to the bathroom, and blood in the stool.
Can colon cancer be treated successfully?
Compared to other types of cancer, colon cancer has a high rate of being cured. This is because people at high risk are getting more tests than they used to. And with today's methods, colon cancer can be fixed not only in its early stages but also in its later stages, and with fewer colon cancer treatment side effects.
How to diagnose colon malignancy?
The fecal occult blood test (FOBT), colonoscopy, biopsy, computed tomography (CT), and ultrasound examination can all be used to determine if someone has colon cancer.
How common is cancer of the intestines?
Statistics say that malignant colon tumor is the third most common type in men and women. But only 1 percent of people with colon cancer are younger than 40. Most hospital patients are over 60 or 70 years old.
How long can a person with bowel cancer stay alive?
Life expectancy after cancer treatment is based on a 5-year survival rate. 64% of people with colon cancer will be alive after five years. The cancer stage directly affects this indicator: in the first stage, 91%; in stages II and III, 72%; and in stage IV, 15%.
Where can I get Colon cancer treatment?
What are the best clinics for Colon cancer treatment?
Who are the best doctors for Colon cancer?
Prof. Dr. med. Roland M. Schmid from University Hospital rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Florian Bassermann from University Hospital rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Helmut Friess from University Hospital rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Jens Werner from University Hospital Ludwig-Maximilians Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Julia Mayerle from University Hospital Ludwig-Maximilians Munich