SurgeryThe most effective treatment for bowel cancer in most cases is surgery. An operation for bowel cancer will aim to remove the cancer and also the nearby tissue, which may also be affected by cancer.
Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be given either before or after surgery. The aims of this treatment†is to reduce:
- The size of the cancer
- The chance of spread, and
- The chance of the cancer returning.
The outcome of treatment will be dependant on several factors, including:
- The growth pattern of the primary bowel cancer
- The depth the cancer has spread through the bowel wall
- The presence of cancer cells in lymph glands and other organs
- Your general health and wellbeing.
Talk to your medical practitioner to find out more or contact us.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. Because anti-cancer drugs enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body, they can kill cancer cells that may have spread to distant parts. Anti-cancer drugs kill cancerous cells by interfering with the life-cycle of these cells. Different drugs attack cells at a different point in their growth, so several drugs are often combined for the most effective treatment. Chemotherapy was first used against leukaemias and lymphomas, but it is now used to control and cure many other forms of cancer.
Because the drugs used in chemotherapy affect normal cells as well as cancerous cells, treatment with these drugs is a balance between the maximum kill of cancer cells and the minimum effect on normal cells. Most anti-cancer drugs disrupt the process of cell division and therefore the normal cells which are most affected are those which divide often, in such tissues as the stomach and intestines, hair follicles, the lining of the mouth and bone marrow. Damage to these cells may result in hair loss, nausea and vomiting and blood deficiencies. Damage to bone marrow in particular affects the level of white blood cells in the blood which may lessen the bodyís ability to properly control infection, bruising or fatigue. These effects of chemotherapy are always closely monitored.
Adjuvant or preventative chemotherapy is the use of drugs as a precaution in case cancer cells may have spread but remain undetected in the body. Not all anti-cancer drugs have all of the side effects.
RadiotherapyRadiotherapy is the use of highly active invisible rays, either x-rays or gamma rays, to kill diseased cells. X-rays are produced by machines, and may be used either for cancer treatment, or to take pictures for diagnosis (e.g. chest x-rays). Gamma rays are given off by radio-active substances such as cobalt or radium; these substances may be placed in a container in a body cavity or put directly into a tumour. Most often radiotherapy is delivered by a machine operated by a skilled technician called a radiographer.
Because radiation affects both normal and abnormal cells in its path, the radiographer delivers the radiation to an area precisely determined by the radiotherapist (trained medical practitioner) such that the minimum number of normal cells are affected. To enhance precision, an outline of the area to be treated is often drawn with a removable coloured dye and neighboring areas of the body are shielded from the radiation.
Radiotherapy is used to treat cancers that either cannot be removed or whose removal would affect the patientís normal functions. Cancers of the cervix and the tongue are examples. Radiotherapy can also be used in combination with surgery if the doctor thinks there is a possibility of cancer cells surviving in tissue neat the surgery site. If a tumour is very large or close to vital organs radiotherapy may be used to shrink the tumour before surgery.
Radiotherapy is not painful, but it may cause fatigue. Any other side effects are usually confined to the irradiated area of the body. For example, a person receiving radiotherapy to the throat may experience a sore throat and difficulty in swallowing. These side effects are usually temporary.
Radiotherapy does not make a person radioactive and therefore it is quite safe to be with other people during the course of treatment and afterwards.