Treatment overview for colon cancer

Treatments used for colon cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Often a combination of treatments is used.

What treatment you have depends on the stage of the cancer and where it is in the colon. It also depends on your general health and preferences.

It is important that you have the chance to discuss treatments with your doctor. This will help you understand why a particular plan of treatment has been suggested, and how the treatment may affect you.

Surgery

Surgery to remove the cancer is one of the main treatments for colon cancer. The operation usually involves removing the affected part of the colon, as well as nearby lymph nodes. If the cancer has grown into tissue or organs nearby, the surgeon may remove parts of these too.

Sometimes, surgery is used to help with symptoms rather than cure the cancer. This may be if the cancer is causing a blockage in the bowel. Occasionally, surgery may be used to remove cancer that has spread to a distant part of the body, such as the liver or lungs. This is called secondary or advanced cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be given before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) or after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

If cancer has spread to the liver or lungs (secondary cancer), chemotherapy may be the main treatment. It is given to shrink the cancer and to control it for as long as possible.

Some people with secondary cancer have chemotherapy to shrink the cancer before having an operation to remove it.

Chemotherapy may be used to shrink cancer and relieve symptoms if the cancer has come back after treatment.

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are sometimes used on their own or in combination with chemotherapy to control secondary cancer.

Clinical trials

Your cancer specialist may invite you to take part in a clinical trial.

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