BY DEAN PAPPAS M.D.
Not counting skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. Thankfully there are many options to consider if you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Our Long Island practice offers state-of-the-art treatment for colorectal cancer, aimed at removing cancer cells and prolonging the lives of patients.
While surgery is the first treatment option for colorectal cancer, chemotherapy may have an important role to play in the process for some patients.
What Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy essentially means the use of anti-cancer drugs to help eliminate cancer cells in a patient’s body. These drugs may be taken orally or intravenously. There are two approaches to chemotherapy.
- Systemic Chemotherapy – Systemic chemotherapy involves anti-cancer drugs enter the bloodstream and circulating throughout the patient’s body. These anti-cancer drugs can be taken orally or by injection.
- Regional Chemotherapy – Regional chemotherapy involves anti-cancer drugs injected into an artery that leads to the part of the body in which a tumor is located. By using regional chemotherapy, the anti-cancer drugs are concentrated in the area that requires treatment.
The ideal approach to treating your colorectal cancer will be determined as part of the consultation process.
How Chemotherapy Is Used to Treat Colorectal Cancer
Chemotherapy can be used in different ways when treating cancer. It is rarely a solution in and of itself, but rather part of a combination of therapies that helps remove cancer cells. Chemotherapy is typically used in later stages of colorectal cancer.
There are three potential applications for chemotherapy with regard to colorectal cancer:
- Adjuvant Chemotherapy – This is when chemotherapy is given following surgical removal of the cancer. Adjuvant chemotherapy essentially tries to eliminate any cancer cells remaining that the surgery was unable to address.
- Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy – This is when chemotherapy is performed prior to surgery in order to shrink the size of a tumor and make it easier to remove. This form of chemotherapy is sometimes paired with radiation therapy.
- Palliative Chemotherapy – In advanced cases of colorectal surgery, the cancer will have spread to other parts of the body. Palliative chemotherapy helps fight cancer cells through the body and prolong a patient’s life.
Drugs Used in Colorectal Cancer Treatment
There are many drugs that may be used as part of chemotherapy to fight colorectal cancer. The most common anti-cancer drugs are:
- Capecitabine (Xeloda)
- Fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil)
- Irinotecan (Camptosar)
- Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
- Trifluridine/tipiracil (TAS-102, Lonsurf)
5-Fluorouracil is typically the first choice drug uses to treat colorectal cancer. 5-Fluorouracil is often combined with leucovorin (folinic acid) in order to enhance the effectiveness of the drug. New drugs used to fight colorectal cancer include Aflibercept, Avastin, Erbitux, and Vectibix.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
There are many potential side effects that chemotherapy patients experience. These include:
- Loss of hair
- Oral sores
- Loss of appetite
- Rashes on hands and feet
- Bruising easily
How Effective Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy can be effective for treating colorectal cancer in its later stages, particularly when combined with surgery. Early detection and advances in medical treatments have resulted in many more survivors of colorectal cancer today.
As part of the consultation process, we will determine the ideal frequency of chemotherapy and when it ought to be administered in order to be most effective.
Learn More About Treating Colorectal Cancer
For more information about fighting cancer and what options are available for you and your loved ones, be sure to contact our team of colorectal surgery specialists today. Our team will wok with you to ensure you receive the most effective treatment possible for your condition.