Understanding Colon Cancer

By A. Richard Adrouny | Go to book overview

8

. Treatment of Later
Stages of Colon Cancer

Adjuvant Therapy

The mainstay of treatment for colon cancer has been surgery. If the cancer has not spread into lymph nodes, does not show other unfavorable characteristics (such as full penetration of the bowel wall or perforation of the bowel), and has not spread to other organs, surgery is usually all that is needed.

Observations of thousands of cases of colorectal cancer over many decades have proven that as the stage of colon cancer increases, the likelihood of recurrence increases and the prospect for cure diminishes. This has led to extensive investigation of the usefulness of adjuvant therapies. “Adjuvant” simply means that which assists or improves another treatment.

Cancer metastasizes when cells from the primary cancer site travel via blood or lymphatic vessels or direct invasion to other sites in the body. Before surgery has been performed to remove the primary mass of cancer, some cells must have “escaped” to fertile ground elsewhere in the body. Therefore, the theory behind adjuvant therapy is that if some form of additional treatment can kill off the remaining few cancer cells, then the chance of cancer spread or recurrence can be diminished. The term used for these undetectable cancer cells is microscopic metastases.

The Holy Grail for almost thirty years of colorectal cancer research was an adjuvant therapy that would be effective in improving survival rates. This search was largely pursued through chemotherapy drugs, especially 5-FU, with the hope that a drug or a combination of drugs would provide the key.

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Understanding Colon Cancer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Understanding Colon Cancer *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • 1 - Who Gets Colon Cancer and Why *
  • 2 - The Colon *
  • 3 - How Colon Cancer Develops *
  • 4 - The [look] of Colon Cancer *
  • 5 - The [feel] of Colon Cancer *
  • 6 - Stages and Prognosis of Colon Cancer *
  • 7 - Surgical Treatment of Colon Cancer *
  • 8 - Treatment of Later Stages of Colon Cancer *
  • 9 - Prevention *
  • 10 - The Future *
  • Appendix *
  • Glossary *
  • Index *
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