Health Encyclopedia

 

Cancer Care



Types and Goals of Treatment for Colorectal Cancer

Types and Goals of Treatment for Colorectal Cancer

There are four major treatments for colorectal cancer. They are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. Different combinations of these treatments may be used, depending on the stage (extent) of the cancer and other factors. Other kinds of treatment are being studied in clinical trials. One such therapy is immunotherapy. Each treatment has its own goals. Here is an overview of each type of treatment:

  • Surgery. This is the most common treatment for most early stages of colon and rectal cancer. The goal of this treatment is to remove the entire tumor and any cancer cells that may have spread to nearby tissue. Depending on the stage of the cancer, surgery may be all that's needed. Or surgery may come before or after another treatment is used.

  • Chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is to stop cancer from growing or spreading. It does this by using drugs to either kill the cells or stop them from dividing. If the drugs are given in a way that lets them enter the bloodstream, they treat cancer cells throughout the body. That way they can treat cancer that has spread. This type of treatment is said to be systemic. Drugs can also be administered to attack cancer cells in specific organs, such as the liver. This treatment is said to be local. Chemotherapy might also be used before surgery to shrink tumors. When used before surgery, it is called neoadjuvant therapy. It might be used after surgery to kill or control any remaining cancer cells. When used after surgery, it is called an adjuvant therapy.

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells and prevent recurrence. To do this, it uses high-energy X-rays to kill the cancer cells. It has a major role in treating rectal cancers, but it may be used in some colon cancers as well. Like chemotherapy, it may be used before surgery to shrink tumors. This treatment is called neoadjuvant radiation therapy. This may lower the chance that a person will need a permanent colostomy. When it's used after surgery, it is called adjuvant radiation therapy. Then the goal is to reduce the chance that the cancer will come back.

  • Targeted therapy. This type of therapy uses drugs that target proteins or cell functions that help cancer grow. Some of these drugs are given along with chemotherapy drugs, while others are used by themselves. The goal is to prevent the cancer from growing. It may also be used to help chemotherapy get inside the tumor. This allows it to be more effective.

Researchers are still studying other biologic or immunologic techniques that could help the body's immune system fight the cancer. Because clinical trials study new treatments, you should talk with your health care provider to see if there are any you should consider.

 
Related Items
Content Type 134
  Top 10 Cancers Among Men
Content Type 135
  Virtual Colonoscopy for Cancer Screening
  Proctectomy
Drug Reference
  Capecitabine
  Oxaliplatin
  Fluorouracil, 5-FU
  Cetuximab
  Irinotecan
  Panitumumab
Cancer Source
  Am I At Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
  Can I Get Checked for Colorectal Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?
  What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
  How Your Health Care Provider Uses Biopsies to Make a Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer
  Understanding Your Stage of Colorectal Cancer
  Chemotherapy for Colorectal Cancer
  Goal of Radiation Therapy for Colorectal Cancer
  Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
  Laparoscopy: Another Surgical Option for Colorectal Cancer
  Living with a Colostomy: Tips for Maintenance and Daily Living
  What to Know About Targeted Therapy for Colorectal Cancer
  I’ve Just Been Told I Have Colorectal Cancer
  Understanding Your Type of Colorectal Cancer
  What Are the 5-Year Survival Rates for People With Colorectal Cancer?
  What Is Colorectal Cancer?
  How Surgery for Colorectal Cancer Affects What You Can Eat
  How Surgery for Colorectal Cancer Affects Your Bowel Function
  What Happens During Chemotherapy for Colorectal Cancer
  What Happens During Radiation Therapy for Colorectal Cancer
  Questions to Ask about Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
  What Happens During Targeted Therapy for Colorectal Cancer
  What to Expect After Targeted Therapy for Colorectal Cancer
  Risks with Surgery for Colorectal Cancer
  Types of Surgery for Colorectal Cancer
  What Happens During Surgery for Colorectal Cancer
  What to Expect After Surgery for Colorectal Cancer
Cancer FAQs
  Frequently Asked Questions About Colorectal Cancer
MRAs
  Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP)
  Colorectal Cancer
Newsletters
  Are You Up-to-Date on Colorectal Cancer Screening?