colon cancer treatment

Colon Cancer: Standard Treatment and Alternative Therapies

Colon cancer is the third most diagnosed form of cancer in the United States. In just 2021, there are over 100,000 new cases. While we do know some colon cancer causes, there is still ongoing research for colon cancer treatment.

More people now have higher chances of surviving colon cancer. This is thanks to modern medical advancements, screening methods, and new treatment options.
In this article, we’re going to look at the standard and alternative treatment options for colon cancer.

colon cancer treatment - doctor and patient talking

Colon Cancer Stages

The stage of colon cancer dictates the treatment method used. Although, doctors will evaluate other factors such as age and comorbidities before deciding.

Medical professionals use a scale from 0 to 4 to determine the stage of a cancer diagnosis.

Stage 0

Stage 0 is the early stage when the tumor did not extend beyond the inner layer of the colon. This stage is usually treated with surgery only.

Stage 1

Stage 1 means that cancer spread to the next layer of the colon wall, but did not reach the lymph nodes. This is also treated with surgery. Few surgical options are available based on the location of the tumor and its size.

Stage 2

Stage 2 colon cancer also uses a classification of stages 2A, 2B, or 2C. These stages depend on how much cancer spreads to the outer layers of the intestinal wall or other organs in the abdomen. In addition to surgery, doctors may recommend chemotherapy if the tumor has high-grade features.

Stage 3

Stage 3 is also divided into 3A, 3B, and 3C. Cancers of this stage have spread to the lymph nodes or other nearby organs but have not reached distant sites. Doctors can treat colon cancer stage 3 with surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation.

Stage 4

Stage 4 has two subtypes of advanced cancer stages, 4A and 4B. This is when colon cancer spreads to other organs like the liver or lungs. Treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Newer therapies like targeted therapy and immunotherapy are also options.

colon cancer treatment - doctors performing surgery

Standard Colon Cancer Treatment Options

Medicine is always advancing and researchers make breakthroughs. However, there are standard treatment options for colon cancer. Doctors have used these methods for years and they have proven to be effective.

Surgery

Doctors can treat early-stage colon cancer with less invasive surgeries. They will remove the small cancerous polyps during a colonoscopy. Laparoscopic surgery can remove larger polyps in the colon.

More advanced cases require partial colectomy. This involves the removal of some parts of the colon and lymph nodes. In the case of advanced cancer and poor overall health, surgery may not be helpful. Instead, it would provide relief of the symptoms caused by obstruction, bleeding, or pain.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Doctors typically recommend chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor. After surgery, it can further kill cancerous cells for high-risk stages 2, 3, or 4.

While chemotherapy involves drugs, radiation therapy uses X-rays or other energy sources. These eliminate cancerous cells or shrink tumors before surgery.

Radiation is a palliative therapy used if doctors cannot perform surgery. Sometimes patients receive only radiation or combine it with chemotherapy.

Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy

Targeted therapy involves drugs or other substances that target cancer cells. They do this by interfering with some molecules involved in the spread or growth of cancer.

Unlike chemotherapy, which affects both cancerous and healthy cells, targeted therapy only affects cancer cells.

Immunotherapy uses drugs that target cancer cells using the immune system. It may be useful in advanced forms of cancer that don’t respond to other treatments. In cases of advanced cancer, a team of palliative care professionals manages it to improve the quality of life.

colon cancer treatment - woman getting acupuncture

Alternative Therapies for Colon Cancer

A healthy lifestyle can help prevent colon cancer. Alternative therapies are also helpful in addition to standard treatments. It will help patients manage colon cancer and improve overall health.

Healthy Lifestyle

A diet based on nutrient-rich foods can be beneficial to those with colon cancer or other types of cancer. A healthy diet should consist of the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

It’s helpful to think about the Mediterranean diet when searching for healthy foods.

Try to avoid Western-type diets based on highly processed food. This type of diet also includes red meat, high fat, and high sugar products. It also lacks vitamins and minerals.

Avoid excessive drinking and limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.

Along with exercise, a healthy diet can prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for colon cancer.

Quit Smoking

Stop smoking if you do, and avoid a sedentary life. Aim to exercise most days of the week, at least 30 minutes.

Acupuncture

Some research suggests that acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy to help recover after colon cancer surgery.

In animal studies, acupuncture showed the ability to shrink tumor size. In human trials, researchers found it helped alleviate pain from various causes.

Massage and Reflexology

Massage and reflexology may help alleviate stress and tension, as well as improve quality of life. Psychotherapy, yoga, and mindfulness meditation can further support positive emotions.

Vitamin D

Among supplements, take Vitamin D supplements if you experience Vitamin D deficiency. Healthy levels of Vitamin D correlate with a lower risk of developing colon cancer. It also shows a better overall survival rate and reduced risk of polyp recurrence.

If interested in alternative therapies, find practitioners with experience working with cancer. Avoid buying herbal supplements without seeking medical advice.

Consult a doctor specialized in alternative therapies. Herbs can interfere with prescription drugs.

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