Colorectal cancer screenings find tissue growths on the inside lining of the colon, called polyps. If a polyp is found, it will be removed and tested to determine whether it is benign, precancerous or cancerous.
Most polyps are benign or precancerous. However, if laboratory testing determines that a polyp has cancerous cells, treatment options will be discussed. The earlier the cancer is treated, the easier it is to treat.
Here, Piedmont Colorectal Associates explains what you can expect after a colon cancer diagnosis.
Getting the Right Treatment
The type of treatment for colon cancer is largely dependent on the stage of the cancer.
Stage 0 colon cancer is cancer that has not grown beyond the inner lining of the colon. In most cases, only a polypectomy and/or a local excision is needed to treat this stage of cancer. A polypectomy or local excision involves removing the polyp in its entirety during a colonoscopy. Additional treatment may be needed if a polyp or tumor is too big to be removed through local excision. In these cases, a partial colectomy may be performed to remove the growth and part of the colon.
Stage I colon cancer is cancer that has grown beyond the lining of the colon and into the deeper layers of the colon wall. If a cancerous polyp is removed completely during colonoscopy with no cancer cells at the edges of the polyp, then no additional treatment may be needed. If there are cancer cells at the edges of the polyp, additional surgery may be needed.
Stage II colon cancer is cancer that has grown through the wall of the colon and possibly into nearby tissue. A partial colectomy may be performed to remove the section of the colon containing the cancer along with nearby lymph nodes. In some cases, a doctor may recommend adjuvant chemotherapy if the cancer has a high risk of recurrence. A cancer may be considered to have a high risk of recurrence for several reasons; for example if it looks very abnormal (i.e., high grade), has grown into nearly blood or lymph vessels or has blocked off the colon.
Stage III colon cancer means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but has not yet spread to other parts of the body. The standard treatment is partial colectomy and removal of nearby lymph nodes, followed by adjuvant chemotherapy. Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be recommended if a patient is not healthy enough for surgery.
Stage IV colon cancer means the cancer has spread (metastasized) from the colon to distant organs and tissues. In most cases, surgery is unlikely to cure stage IV colon cancer. However, surgery may be performed if the tumor has spread to only a few small areas. Surgery would involve removing the section of the colon containing the cancer, the nearby lymph nodes and the areas of cancer metastases. Chemotherapy is usually performed as well.
If the cancer metastases cannot be removed because they are too big or there are too many of them, chemotherapy is usually the main form of treatment. Surgery may be performed if the cancer is obstructing the colon.
If surgery is required to remove your cancer, Piedmont Colorectal Associates will discuss all options available. Most surgeries can be performed using minimally invasive techniques, including a laparoscopic or robotic approach and small incisions.