Treatments and Reducing Risks
Treating Colorectal Cancer
A good medical team is one of the keys to successful colon cancer treatment and recovery. In addition to your primary care physician an oncologist (a doctor who treats cancer) will often act as the coordinator of your care. Your team might include gastroenterologists (doctor who specializes in the digestive system), surgeons, and radiation specialists, pathologists, and psychologists to help patients cope with this new diagnosis.
The type of treatment you medical team recommends will depend largely on the location and the stage of your cancer. The main types of treatment that can be used for colorectal cancer are:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapies
Taking an Active Role In Your Treatment
It’s natural to want to want to learn all you can about your disease and treatment choices. However, sometimes the stress and shock of the diagnosis can be overwhelming. Take notes, bring someone with you, make a list of questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or suggestions for additional resources. Remember you don’t need to ask all you questions at once. You will have other chances to ask your medical team to explain things that are not clear or ask for more details.
Follow these links for in-depth information about treatment for colorectal cancer:
Treatment of Colon and Rectal Cancer from the National Cancer Institute - Learn about colon and rectal cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and questions to ask the doc.
Colon and Rectum Cancer Detailed Guide from the American Cancer Society with extensive medical details including staging, treatment, tips for talking with your health care team, what happens after treatment and additional resources.
Getting a Second Opinion
Before starting treatment you may want to get a second opinion before making a decision about your treatment plan. A second opinion can confirm or suggest modifications to your proposed treatment plan, provide reassurance that you have explored all of your options, and answer any questions you may have. Many insurance companies will cover a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it.
The National Cancer Institute provides a helpful fact sheet called How to Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility If You Have Cancer.
Many choose to incorporate complimentary treatments like acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal products, vitamins or special diets, and meditation into their treatment plan. Be sure to discuss this with your treatment team. Things that seem safe, such as certain herbal teas, may change the way standard treatment works.
You may find it helpful to read the NCI booklet Thinking About Complementary & Alternative Medicine: A guide for people with cancer.
Questions for your doctor about complimentary treatment:
- What are the possible benefits from this approach?
- What are the risks?
- Do the expected benefits outweigh the risks?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Will this approach change the way my cancer treatment works?
- Is this approach under study in a clinical trial?
- How much will it cost? Will my health insurance pay for it?
- Can you refer me to a complimentary medicine practitioner?
Colon cancer is highly treatable when found early and preventable with regular screenings. If everybody age 50 and over had regular screening tests as many as 60% of deaths from colon cancer could be prevented. Ask your doctor when to begin screening and what tests are right for you. Be sure to mention any personal or family medical history that may put you into a higher risk category.
Keep in mind that screening is important in healthy people that don’t have symptoms.
In addition to undergoing regular screenings, studies suggest that people can reduce their risk of colorectal cancer by eating a diet that reduces consumption of fat and red meat and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, having a physically active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking.