Your colon cancer treatment at MD Anderson may include one or more of the following therapies:
Surgery is the most common treatment for colon cancer, especially if it has not spread. As for many cancers, surgery for colon cancer is most successful when done by a surgeon with a great deal of experience in the procedure.
Colon cancer may be treated with surgery alone, surgery and chemotherapy, and/or other treatments. Chemotherapy or radiation may be given:
- Before surgery to make the cancer smaller. This is called neoadjuvant therapy.
- After surgery to help keep you cancer-free. This is called adjuvant therapy.
The type of surgery depends on the stage and location of the tumor:
Polypectomy: A colonoscope, which is a long tube with a camera on the end, is inserted into the rectum and guided to the polyp. A tiny, scissor-like tool or wire loop removes the polyp.
Colectomy: The area of the colon where the cancer is, along with some healthy surrounding tissue, is removed. The associated lymph nodes are removed (biopsied) and looked at under a microscope. Usually the surgeon then rejoins the parts of the colon. This surgery also is called a hemicolectomy or partial colectomy.
Your doctor will decide whether it is best to perform traditional open surgery or minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.
With minimally invasive surgery, small cuts are made in the abdomen. A tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted. The surgeon then uses video imaging to perform the surgery. MD Anderson surgeons are among the most experienced in the nation in minimally invasive colon cancer surgery.
Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) may be used if the cancer is small and only on the surface of the colon. A needle is placed in the colon wall, and then saline (saltwater) is injected to make a bubble under the growth. Using suction, the lesion is removed.
Endoluminal stent placement: This minimally invasive procedure uses an endoscope to place expanding metal stents to help relieve a bowel obstruction.
MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and effective chemotherapy options for colon cancer. Drugs are given by mouth (pills) or intravenously (injected into a vein).
- Chemotherapy may be used to help:
- Shrink the cancer before surgery
- Keep you cancer free after surgery
- Prolong life when surgery is not an option
MD Anderson offers targeted therapies for certain types of colon cancer. These innovative new drugs stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the tumor with what it needs to grow, survive and spread.
MD Anderson provides the most advanced radiation treatments, including:
- Brachytherapy: Tiny radioactive seeds are placed in the body close to the tumor
- 3D-conformal radiation therapy: Several radiation beams are given in the exact shape of the tumor
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT): Treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the tumor to reduce damage to normal tissue.
The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson treats many colon cancer patients. Proton therapy delivers the highest radiation doses directly into the tumor, sparing nearby healthy tissue and vital organs. For many patients, this results in better cancer control with fewer side effects.
MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering
promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.
Find the latest news and information about colon cancer in our
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On Jan. 18, 2012, my husband Jared was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He was just 39 years old. A hard working lawyer, devoted father to our three daughters and active member of our community, Jared rarely slowed down and was always ready to crack a joke.
For a few months before his diagnosis, Jared had started experiencing abdominal discomfort. After trying several antibiotics, Jared's symptoms didn't improve. Around Thanksgiving, it became clear that he needed a colonoscopy, a procedure that he was a tad uneasy about having. We scheduled it for after the holidays and our middle daughter's 8th birthday party.
About 15 minutes into the colonoscopy, a nurse summoned me to the recovery area where the doctor told me that Jared had colon cancer. I felt as though I'd been kicked in the stomach.
After composing myself, I called Jared's father, who is a neurosurgeon and a stage IV melanoma survivor. That afternoon, Jared had a chest and abdominal CT scan, which revealed "suspicious" spots on Jared's liver.
The next day Jared had his colon resection surgery. The doctor removed five feet of his descending and sigmoid colon. Jared hadn't eaten in three days, but he was in good spirits and eager to get his walks in so that he could be discharged from the hospital.
Jared's colon cancer treatment at MD Anderson
With surgery behind him, Jared wanted his care to be directed by the wonderful doctors at MD Anderson. When we arrived at MD Anderson, we met with Scott Kopetz, M.D., Ph.D. He explained that Jared would need six rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the liver tumors before having liver resection surgery.
Jared tolerated the chemotherapy well and rarely complained, though I know that he felt awful. His infusions started every other Friday and lasted for 48 hours. At the time, he was coaching softball for our daughter, Kendall. Despite his nausea and inability to touch or drink cold objects and drinks, he coached every game. He even high-fived the girls on both teams. That gesture, sweet as it was, made my skin crawl. Jared's immune system was compromised by the chemo, and I was afraid he'd get sick.
On June 7, 2012, Jared had much of the right lobe of his liver, part of the left lobe of the liver and his gallbladder removed. This surgery left him weak and tired, and his hospital stay was much longer than it had been for the colon surgery.
When Jared finally came home, he tired easily. He continued to work for short periods every day, eventually working back up to his old schedule. Just when he began feeling better, the second round of chemotherapy began. Still, Jared continued to be his upbeat and hilarious self, tolerating chemo like a champ. Not long after his last chemo infusion, Jared's CT scans revealed no signs of cancer in his body. He was disease-free!
A life-changing year
Jared is now scanned every six months, and I'm thrilled to report that he has been disease-free for three years.
While we'll always remember 2012 as an incredibly difficult and life-changing year for our family, Jared and I have come out of it full of gratitude. We are immensely thankful for the wonderful doctors at MD Anderson who saved Jared's life. We are also thankful for the PAs, nurses, volunteers and senior patient affairs specialist Elizabeth McCall, who made our chemo visits almost pleasant and fun.
We're also incredibly grateful for our families and friends who jumped in to help with our little girls and cooked us more than 100 meals. Even though we felt pretty lousy when we left MD Anderson some evenings, we always saw someone or some family whose situation was harder than ours.
And I always saw what I've seen in Jared for as long as I've known him -- a sense of humor and a positive attitude that allowed him to get the better of cancer rather than cancer getting the better of him.