In most cases, surgery is used to treat colorectal cancer. Between 80 and 90 percent colorectal cancer patients have a procedure called a radical bowel resection, which may be performed either through one large incision (open surgery) or several small incisions (laparoscopic surgery). For cancers that have spread, the lymph nodes may also be removed in an operation called a lymphadenectomy. In some cases, the colon cannot be reconnected, so a temporary or permanent colostomy has to be performed to allow feces from the colon to pass into a collection vessel outside the body. About 15 percent of patients require a permanent colostomy.
Other treatment options include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, both of which are most commonly used following surgery. In addition, a new vaccine called TroVax, which works by using the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer, has seen positive results for colon cancer therapy in clinical trials.
Following treatment, follow-up care is recommended for colorectal cancer patients to make sure that recurrent or metastatic cancer is detected early. This includes regular physical exams, fecal occult blood tests, colonoscopies, CT scans and chest x-rays.