Treatment to cure bowel cancer

The treatment for bowel cancer is made according to the stage and severity of the disease, location, size and characteristics of the tumor, and surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy may be indicated.

Bowel cancer is curable when the diagnosis is made in the early stages of the disease and treatment is started shortly thereafter, as it is easier to avoid metastasis and control the development of the tumor. However, when cancer is identified in later stages, it becomes more difficult to achieve a cure, even if the treatment is carried out according to medical advice.

1. Surgery

Surgery is usually the treatment of choice for bowel cancer and usually involves removing an affected portion of the intestine and a small portion of the healthy intestine to ensure that there are no cancer cells in place.

When the diagnosis is made in the early stages, surgery can be done only by removing a small portion of the intestine, however when the diagnosis is made in more advanced stages, it may be necessary for the person to undergo chemo or radiotherapy to decrease the size of the tumor and it is possible to perform the surgery. See how bowel cancer surgery is done.

Recovery after bowel cancer surgery takes time and during the postoperative period the person may experience pain, tiredness, weakness, constipation or diarrhea and the presence of blood in the stool, it is important to inform the doctor if these symptoms are persistent.

After surgery, the doctor may recommend the use of painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs to promote recovery and alleviate symptoms that may arise after surgery, in addition to antibiotics to prevent infections. In addition, depending on the extent and severity of the cancer, the doctor may recommend chemo or radiation therapy.

2. Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy may be indicated to reduce the size of the tumor, being recommended before surgery. In addition, it can also be indicated in order to control symptoms and prevent tumor development. Thus, radiotherapy can be applied in different ways:

  • External: the radiation comes from a machine, requiring the patient to go to the hospital for treatment, for a few days a week, according to the indication.
  • Internal: the radiation comes from an implant containing the radioactive material placed next to the tumor, and depending on the type, the patient must remain in the hospital for a few days for treatment.

The side effects of radiation therapy are generally less aggressive than those of chemotherapy, but include skin irritation in the treated area, nausea, fatigue and irritation in the rectum and bladder. These effects tend to subside at the end of treatment, but irritation of the rectum and bladder may persist for months.

3. Chemotherapy

Like radiotherapy, chemotherapy can be used before surgery to decrease the size of the tumor or as a way to control symptoms and tumor development, however this therapy can also be performed after surgery in order to eliminate cells carcinogens that have not been completely eliminated.

Thus, the main types of chemotherapy used in bowel cancer can be:

  • Adjuvant: performed after surgery to destroy cancer cells that were not removed during surgery;
  • Neoadjuvant: used before surgery to shrink the tumor and facilitate its removal;
  • For advanced cancer: used to decrease the size of the tumor and relieve the symptoms caused by metastases.

Some examples of medicines used in chemotherapy are Capecitabine, 5-FU and Irinotecan, which can be administered by injection or in tablet form. The main side effects of chemotherapy can be hair loss, vomiting, loss of appetite and recurrent diarrhea.

4. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy uses certain antibodies that are injected into the body to identify and attack cancer cells, preventing the growth of the tumor and the chances of metastasis. These drugs do not affect normal cells, thus reducing side effects. The drugs most used in immunotherapy are Bevacizumab, Cetuximab or Panitumumab.

The side effects of immunotherapy in the treatment of bowel cancer can be rash, bellyache, diarrhea, bleeding, sensitivity to light or breathing problems.