Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer

March 12, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

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By Bill Ransom

The treatment depends on the staging of the cancer. When colorectal cancer is caught at early stages (with little spread) it can be curable. However when it is detected at later stages (when distant [[metastasis|metastases]] are present) it is less likely to be curable.

Surgery remains the primary treatment while chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be recommended depending on the individual patient’s staging and other medical factors.


Surgical treatment is by far the most likely to result in a cure of colon cancer if the tumor is localized. Very early cancer that develops within a polyp can often be cured by removing the polyp at the time of colonoscopy. More advanced cancers typically require surgical removal of the section of colon containing the tumor leaving sufficient margins to reduce likelihood of re-growth. If possible, the remaining parts of colon are anastomosed together to create a functioning colon. In cases when anastomosis is not possible, a stoma (artificial orifice) is created. While surgery is not usually offered if significant metastasis is present, surgical removal of isolated liver metastases is common. Improved chemotherapy has increased the number of patients who are offered surgical removal of isolated liver metastases.

Laparoscopic assist resection of the colon for tumour can reduce the size of painful incision and minimize the risk of infection. As with any surgical procedure, colorectal surgery can in rare cases result in complications. These may include infection, abscess, fistula or bowel obstruction.


Chemotherapy is used to reduce the likelihood of metastasis developing, shrink tumour size, or slow tumor growth. Chemotherapy is often applied after surgery (adjuvant), before surgery (neo-adjuvant), or as the primary therapy if surgery is not indicated (palliative). The treatments listed here have been shown in clinical trials to improve survival and/or reduce mortality and have been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration. Adjuvant (after surgery) chemotherapy. One regimen involves the combination of infusional 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, and oxaliplatin (FOLFOX) 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) Leucovorin (LV) Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin®) Capecitabine (Xeloda®)

Chemotherapy for metastatic disease. Commonly used first line regimens involve the combination of infusional 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, and oxaliplatin (FOLFOX) with bevacizumab or infusional 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, and irinotecan (FOLFIRI) with bevacizumab 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) Leucovorin Irinotecan Oxaliplatin Bevacizumab Cetuximab

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is used to kill tumor tissue before or after surgery or when surgery is not indicated. Sometimes chemotherapy agents are used to increase the effectiveness of radiation by sensitizing tumor cells if present. Radiotherapy is not used routinely in colorectal cancer, as it could lead to radiation enteritis, and is difficult to target specific portions of the colon, but may be used on metastatic tumor deposits if they compress vital structures and/or cause pain. There may be a role for post-operative adjuvant radiation in the case where a tumor perforates the colon as judged by the surgeon or the pathologist. However, as the area of the prior tumor site can be difficult (if not impossible) to ascertain by imaging, surgical clips need to be left in the colon to direct the radiotherapist to the area of risk.


Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is gaining prominence as a complementary theraputic agent in the treatment of colorectal cancer. A review of results from recent clinical trials is given in Mosolits et al.

Support Therapies

Cancer diagnosis very often results in an enormous change in the patient’s psychological wellbeing. Various support resources are available from, hospitals and other agencies which provide counseling, social service support, cancer support groups, and other services. These services help to mitigate some of the difficulties of integrating a patient’s medical complications into other parts of their life.

William Ransom provides information of Colon cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment at

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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