As the name implies, colon cancer is carcinoma of the colorectal region. A fairly common cancer, its treatment depends to a large extent on whether the cancer is in the preliminary stages or if it has proceeded to the advanced metastatic colon cancer stage, at which point treatment options are greatly limited.
The first apparent warning signs of a possible diagnosis of colon cancer include sudden unexplained changes in bowel patterns, both as diarrhea or constipation that last for several months, bleeding when passing stools, unexplained deficiency of hemoglobin, sudden and unexplained weight loss, vomiting, nausea and unexplained fatigue with no apparent exertion. These are some of the probable warning signs of colon cancer.
In the earlier stages, especially stage 0 and I, the cancer remains confined within the colon wall. Usually, at this stage, the removal of a polyp or a minor colectomy would be effective as treatment. In stage II, the cancer spreads beyond the colon into the adjoining tissues, but has not yet affected the lymph nodes. Depending on the progression, doctors may advise partial colectomy or chemotherapy. In the third stage, the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, but has not yet metastasized into other parts of the body. Colectomy of the affected region, followed by adjuvant chemotherapy is the treatment modality that is conventionally recommended at this stage of colon cancer. It is only in the fourth stage that the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver or lungs, though, at times, metastasis even to the brain is known to happen. At this stage, the person has advanced metastatic colon cancer and surgery may be of little or no consequence by this time. For advanced metastatic colon cancer, several treatment regimens are possible and will be chosen by the physician after considering the patient’s health status and other factors. Surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be attempted with the goal of reducing the cancer spread as well as relieving some associated symptoms.