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Colon Cancer Treatment

Pallavi Kumar, MD, Medical Oncologist and Director of Immuno-Oncology 

Have you been diagnosed with colon cancer? If so, it’s important to understand what treatment options are available to you. No matter what treatment option you and your doctor choose, you can rest assured that our colon cancer team is devoted to you and your recovery and will answer any questions you may have. We’ll be with you every step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care.

When you receive your colon cancer diagnosis, your MedStar Health Cancer Network team will proceed quickly to the treatment phase. Your doctor will discuss your colon cancer treatment options with you, which depend on the stage of your colon cancer—whether it has metastasized (spread) and your general health.

Colon Cancer Treatment Options

Surgery is often the cornerstone of any cancer treatment plan. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor, or as much of it as possible. You may have other treatments following the surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells and prevent it from returning. Sometimes, you receive treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation before your surgery, so the tumor is easier to remove.

MedStar Health also offers robotic surgery for colon cancer, which is a more precise treatment that minimizes the pain and risk associated with surgery while increasing the likelihood of a fast recovery and excellent clinical outcomes. In most cases, surgery is the recommended treatment option, and your doctor may combine it with other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

There are three primary treatment options for colon cancer. These include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Colon Cancer Surgery

The preferred treatment for colon cancer is surgery. Depending on the size and stage of the cancer, your MedStar surgeon will recommend either minimally invasive surgery or a traditional surgical approach.

If the polyps are small and localized, your surgeon will remove those during a colonoscopy. Larger polyps may require an endoscopic mucosal resection, which involves removing a small amount of the lining of your colon.

If your colon cancer has grown into or through your colon, your surgeon may perform a partial colectomy. This procedure involves the surgeon removing the part of your colon that contains cancer. In some cases, it’s not possible to reconnect the healthy portions of the colon or rectum. In this case, your MedStar surgeon will have to perform a permanent or temporary colostomy .

  • Local excision is used when the cancer is found at an early stage. Your surgeon accesses the tumor through the rectum and removes it.
  • Resection is used when the tumor is bigger. Your doctor removes the tumor and as much of the colon as necessary and reattaches the healthy part of the colon.
  • Resection with colostomy happens if your doctor is unable to reattach the colon. In order for your body to get rid of waste, your doctor will create an opening, called a stoma. A bag is attached to the stoma to collect the waste. This procedure is called a colostomy.

Chemotherapy for Colon Cancer

In addition to colon cancer surgery, your MedStar doctor may recommend chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells in your body and is usually given after surgery if your colorectal cancer has spread to your lymph nodes. The goal of chemotherapy is to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, but it may also be used to help relieve your colon cancer symptoms if it has spread to other parts of your body.

Radiation for Colon Cancer

Radiation therapy uses targeted high-energy rays to kill colon cancer cells that might remain after your surgery. It may also be used to shrink large tumors to make surgery easier or to relieve the symptoms associated with colon cancer.