Treatments for Colorectal Cancer
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. At Coastal Cancer Center, our physicians and staff care for patients with diseases of the colon and rectum on a daily basis. National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is a valuable opportunity for our community to learn about these diseases and to promote awareness of the importance of colorectal cancer screening, prevention, and treatment.
Working closely with colorectal surgeons, gastroenterologists, and primary care practitioners, Coastal Cancer Center uses advanced treatments and technologies to combat Colorectal Cancer. A patient’s multidisciplinary colon cancer treatment team generally includes a surgeon, medical oncologist, gastroenterologist and sometimes a radiation oncologist. Our cancer care team includes a variety of healthcare professionals, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, oncology nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counselors, dietitians, laboratory technicians and medical assistants.
The treatments used for colorectal cancer depend on the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patient’s general health.
Surgery is the removal of the tumor during an operation. During a surgical resection (removal of tumor) your surgeon removes not only the cancer but some of the nearby healthy colon or rectum and associated lymph nodes. Surgery is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or cryoablation treatment is used if the tumors have limited spread to the liver or lungs. This treatment uses radiofrequency waves to heat the tumors, called RFA, or to freeze the tumor, called cryoablation.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is used tp treat rectal cancer with or without the addition of chemotherapy. Radiation therapy for rectal cancer may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor to be easier to remove or to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
Chemotherapy is medication that destroys cancer cells, usually by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells. Many FDA-approved drugs are available to treat colorectal cancer in the United States. Your oncologist may recommend one or more medications at different times during treatment.
Targeted therapy and Immunotherapy
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets a cancer’s specific genes or mutation within a cancer cell. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells and limits damage to healthy cells. Immunotherapy is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. Types of immunotherapies used to treat colorectal cancer include Pembrolizumab, Nivolumab and Dostarlimab. These treatments are most often used to treat metastatic colon cancer with a marker indicating responsiveness.
Before treatment begins, talk with your medical oncologist about each treatment’s goals and the recommended treatment plan. Patients should also discuss the possible side effects of the specific treatment plan and palliative care options. Different treatments may be recommended for each stage of colorectal cancer. Coastal Cancer Center recommends that you track and report your side effects to your oncologist or a member of your cancer care team so that and needed adjustments can be made.