Diagnosis of colon cancer:
Why is screening necessary?
Undergoing a regular screening test procedure for colon cancer can prove elementary in detecting the presence of the disease at its earliest stage. Moreover, screening can amplify the chance of a cure as it helps doctors evaluate and devise an appropriate treatment plan as per the patient needs and requirements.
Word of advice: Since many screening procedures for colon cancer are present, each having its own benefits and risks, you should discuss the options available in detail with your doctor and decide accordingly.
Diagnostic tests and Procedures:
After the screening test indicates the signs and symptoms of colon cancer, the doctor will use following diagnostic procedures to verify:
1. Colonoscopy can be used to examine the entire colon as well as rectum as a probe to detect suspicious regions. In case, an abnormality is detected, the doctor can make use of suitable surgical tools to pass it through the tube to obtain a sample of tissues, also called as biopsies for further analysis, and remove a possible cancerous fleshy growth, also called as polyps, from the inner parts of the colon.
2. Though blood tests are not a confirmatory diagnostic method for colon cancer, it can serve as an indirect revelation method-It can be used to test the patient’s blood for a chemical like carcinoembryonic antigen that can help the doctor comprehend the prognosis of the patient with accuracy.
Colon Cancer Treatment Methods:
Following the diagnosis, several other tests are carried out to determine the stage of cancer. According the stage of cancer, doctors suggest an appropriate colon cancer treatment in India.
Colon cancer treatment- By stage
Stage 0 Cancer and treatment: When the spread of cancer is restricted to the inner lining of the colon, the patient is supposed to have Stage 0 cancer. Surgery is the only treatment method to cure Stage 0 colon cancer.
Stage 1 Cancer and Treatment:
When cancer has penetrated deeper into the layers of the colon wall but have not spread outside the colon wall or rectum, the patient is supposed to have stage 1 cancer. This type of colon cancer growth can be eliminated during colonoscopy; however, if cancer in the polyp is high-grade surgery is the most commonly recommended treatment.
Stage 1 cancer present, other than in a polyp, can be removed by performing a partial colectomy.
Stage 2 cancer and treatment:
When the cancer growth has reached the colon or rectum wall but has not spread to the lymph nodes, the patient is supposed to have stage 2 colon cancer. Stage 2 colon cancer can be removed by performing a partial colectomy. Along with this, the doctor can suggest chemotherapy to cut down the risk of a relapse.
Having said that, not all doctors support the inclusion of chemo following a surgery owing to its side-effects. Hence, the patient should make sure to have a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of chemo with the doctor prior to making a decision.
Stage 3 cancer and treatment:
When cancer has impinged on the close by lymph nodes, but have not invaded other parts of the body, the patient is supposed to have stage 3 colon cancer. The standard treatment method to cure stage 3 cancer involves the merger of the two-partial colectomy and chemotherapy.
Systemic treatment protocols such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used to treat patients who don’t qualify for surgery.
Stage 4 cancer and treatment: When the colon cancer has spread from the colon or rectum to distant organs and tissues of the body including lungs brain etc., the patient is supposed to have stage 4 colon cancer. This type of colon cancer cannot be cured by surgical intervention techniques. However, if the cancer spread (metastases) in the lungs or liver of the patient, it can be removed with surgery. Chemotherapy is given the patient either before or after the surgery. And, in few particular cases, hepatic artery infusion is used to combat the cancer spread.
In case, the cancer spread is too big to be operated upon; neoadjuvant chemo is given prior to performing the surgery. Another round of chemo would be given after surgery. Also, Ablation or embolization can be employed to annihilate the tumors from the liver. Doctor suggests chemotherapy as the primary mode of treatment when cancer has spread beyond a certain extent.
Before making the final decision, the patient should have a detailed discussion to understand the objective of the chosen treatment method- whether it is to relieve the symptoms or cure the disease in entirety.
Patients with gene alterations in the cancer cells can be treated with another type of popular treatment method called immunotherapy. One of most common immunotherapy drug is pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
Apart from this, radiation therapy can be used to alleviate the symptoms in patients with advanced cancer.