Share your story with others:

MedicineNet appreciates your comment. Your comment may be displayed on the site and will always be published anonymously. Patient Comments FAQs


Tell us a bit about your background to make your comments more useful to other MedicineNet users.
(Optional)

Screen Name: *

Gender of Patient:Male Female

Age Range of Patient:

I am a: Patient Caregiver


Enter your Comment

* Screen Name will appear next to the published comment. Please do not include your full name or email address.

By submitting your comment, and other materials (collectively referred to as a "Submission") to MedicineNet, you grant MedicineNet permission to use, copy, transmit, publish, display, edit and modify your Submission in connection with its Web site. MedicineNet will not pay you for your Submission. You represent that you have all rights necessary for MedicineNet to use your Submission as set forth above.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when writing your comment:

  • Please make sure you address the question asked.
  • Due to the overwhelming number of comments received, not all comments will be published.
  • When selecting comments to publish, our staff will choose those that are educational and complement the topic. Please try to stay on topic.
  • Your comment may be edited. We would typically edit comments to make them clearer and more readable. We will remove personal information such as last names, email and web addresses, and other potentially harmful information.
  • We will not notify you if your comment has been published. We suggest that you check back on the topic article regularly.
  • We do not provide medical or healthcare advice, treatment, or diagnosis.

Thank you for participating!


I have read and agree to abide by the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and the MedicineNet Privacy Policy (required).

To prevent our systems from spam, please complete the following prior to submitting your comment.




What are the treatments for colon cancer?

Surgery is the most common initial medical treatment for colorectal cancer. During surgery, the tumor, a small margin of the surrounding healthy intestine, and adjacent lymph nodes are removed. The surgeon then reconnects the healthy sections of the bowel. In patients with rectal cancer, the rectum sometimes is permanently removed if the cancer arises too low in the rectum. The surgeon then creates an opening (colostomy) on the abdominal wall through which solid waste from the colon is excreted. Specially trained nurses (enterostomal therapists) can help patients adjust to colostomies, and most patients with colostomies return to a normal lifestyle.

For early colon cancers, the recommended treatment is surgical removal. For most people with early stage colon cancer (stage I and most stage II), surgery alone is the only treatment required. However, once a colon cancer has spread to local lymph nodes (stage III), the risk of the cancer returning remains high even if all visible evidence of the cancer has been removed by the surgeon. This is due to an increased likelihood that tiny cancer cells may have escaped prior to surgery and are too small to detect at that time by blood tests, scans or even direct examination. Their presence is deduced from higher risk of recurrence of the colon cancer at a later date (relapse). Medical cancer doctors (medical oncologists) recommend additional treatments with chemotherapy in this setting to lower the risk of the cancer's return. Drugs used for chemotherapy enter the bloodstream and attack any colon cancer cells that were shed into the blood or lymphatic systems prior to the operation, attempting to kill them before they set up shop in other organs. This strategy, called adjuvant chemotherapy, has been proven to lower the risk of cancer recurrence and is recommended for all patients with stage III colon cancer who are healthy enough to undergo it, as well as for some higher risk stage II patients whose tumor may have been found to have obstructed or perforated the bowel wall prior to surgery.

There are several different options for adjuvant chemotherapy for the treatment of colon cancer. The treatments involve a combination of chemotherapy drugs given orally or into the veins. The treatments typically are given for a total of six months. It is important to meet with an oncologist who can explain adjuvant chemotherapy options as well as side effects to watch out for so that the right choice can be made for a patient as an individual.

Chemotherapy usually is given in a health care professional's clinic, in the hospital as an outpatient, or at home. Chemotherapy usually is given in cycles of treatment followed by recovery periods without treatment. Side effects of chemotherapy vary from person to person and also depend on the agents given. Modern chemotherapy agents are usually well tolerated, and side effects for most people are manageable. In general, anticancer medications destroy cells that are rapidly growing and dividing. Therefore, normal red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells that also are growing rapidly can be affected by chemotherapy. As a result, common side effects include anemia, loss of energy, and a low resistance to infections. Cells in the hair roots and intestines also divide rapidly. Therefore, chemotherapy can cause hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but these effects are transient.

Treatment of stage IV colorectal cancer

Once colorectal cancer has spread distant from the primary tumor site, it is described as stage IV disease. These distant tumor deposits, shed from the primary tumor, have traveled through the blood or lymphatic system, forming new tumors in other organs. At that point, colorectal cancer is no longer a local problem but is instead a systemic problem with cancer cells both visible on scan and undetectable, but likely present elsewhere throughout the body. As a result, in most cases the best treatment is chemotherapy, which is a systemic therapy. Chemotherapy in metastatic colorectal cancer has been proven to extend life and improve the quality of life. If managed well, the side effects of chemotherapy are typically far less than the side effects of uncontrolled cancer. Chemotherapy alone cannot cure metastatic colon cancer, but it can more than double life expectancy and allow for good quality of life during the time of treatment.

Chemotherapy options for colorectal cancer treatment vary depending on other health issues that an individual faces. For fitter individuals, combinations of several chemotherapeutic drugs usually are recommended, whereas for sicker people, simpler treatments may be best. Different multidrug regimens combine agents with proven activity in colorectal cancer such as 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), which is often given with the drug leucovorin (also called folinic acid) or a similar drug called levoleucovorin, which helps it work better.

Capecitabine (Xeloda), is a chemotherapy drug given in pill form. Once in the body, it is changed to 5-FU when it gets to the tumor site. Other chemotherapy drugs for colorectal cancer are irinotecan (Camptosar), oxaliplatin (Eloxatin), and trifluridine and tipiracil (Lonsurf), a combination drug in pill form. Chemotherapy regimens often have acronyms to simplify their nomenclature (such as FOLFOX, FOLFIRI, and FLOX).

Targeted therapies are newer treatments that target specific aspects of the cancer cell, which may be more important to the tumor than the surrounding tissues, offering potentially effective treatments with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy. Bevacizumab (Avastin), cetuximab (Erbitux), panitumumab (Vectibix), ramucirumab (Cyramza), regorafenib (Stivarga), and ziv-aflibercept (Zaltrap) are targeted therapies that have been used in the management of advanced colorectal cancer. These newer chemotherapeutic agents most often are combined with standard chemotherapy to enhance their effectiveness.

If the first treatment is not effective, second- and third-line options are available that can confer benefit to people living with colorectal cancer.

Radiation therapy in the primary treatment of colorectal cancer has been limited to treating cancer of the rectum. As noted earlier, whereas parts of the colon move freely within the abdominal cavity, the rectum is fixed in place within the pelvis. It is in intimate relationship to many other structures and the pelvis is a more confined space. For these reasons, a tumor in the rectum often is harder to remove surgically because the space is smaller and other structures can be involved with cancer. As a result, for all but the earliest rectal cancers, initial chemotherapy and radiation treatments (a local treatment to a defined area) are recommended to try and shrink the cancer, allowing for easier removal and lowering the risk of the cancer returning locally. Radiation therapy is typically given under the guidance of a radiation specialist called a radiation oncologist. Initially, individuals undergo a planning session, a complicated visit as the doctors and technicians determine exactly where to give the radiation and which structures to avoid. Chemotherapy usually is administered daily while the radiation is delivered. Side effects of radiation treatment include fatigue, temporary or permanent pelvic hair loss, and skin irritation in the treated areas.

Radiation therapy will occasionally be used as a palliative treatment to reduce pain from recurrent or metastatic colon or rectal cancer.

Return to Colon Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Chris brakley, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: May 19

My wife was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. The doctor said he got all the cancer out after removing about twelve inches of her colon. Thinking she was cancer free we went home very happy. It took the doctors months to figure out she didn't have gastritis, but stage 4 small colon cancer. She started having terrible pain in her abdomen, and vomiting but no blood in either. I had a general surgeon do surgery and it was supposed to be laparoscopic but ended up being exploratory. They had to remove a foot and a half of her small colon (doing a resection), her appendix, one ovary, and part of the large colon. She was on FOLFOX for 3 months and then Folfirinox for 4 months to try and get ready for surgery and the HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) procedure. I was just told she is not a good candidate for this surgery because the surgeon did not see enough response with the chemotherapy. Now her oncologist is putting her on Erbitux and a cancer cell blocker. I am nervous because of possible side effects.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: HP, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: February 23

I noted that my lower abdomen on the right side was slightly distended and painful to touch. I went to see the emergency room doctor as I thought it was my appendix. They did a CAT scan and saw a suspected tumor. The next day I had surgery and the removed the tumor from my colon. It was cancerous but had not spread as the 30 odd lymph nodes were negative. My oncologist gave me an option of chemotherapy or follow. Since there was no evidence of a prophylactic benefit I chose to follow at this point.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: amy, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: March 13

In 2013 3/4th of my colon was removed, and 19 lymph nodes. I had colon cancer stage 3 and I had no treatment because the doctor thought I was too old. Now I wonder if I should have done some treatment because now doctor thinks cancer is back, I have elevated CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen), done every 3 months. It is hard to know what to do.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors