What is it and for whom?
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers there is and it generally has a good long-term recovery rate. It starts usually as a growth of a polyp in the large intestine – some polyps can change into cancer over years of time. For patients with a lot of polyps specific treatment is offered to remove them – it help to decrease risk cancer development. The most common type of colorectal cancer is adenocarcinoma where the mucus making cells start to evolve into cancer cells.
The most common symptoms for cancer are visible or invisible bleeding in stool, anemia, diarrhea, stomach pain or weight loss. It is also common for colorectal cancer to stay symptomless for a long time. Smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical exercise, ageing and male gender are risk factors for colorectal cancer. Eating a lot of meat is known to increase risk substantially.
Diagnosis is done by colonoscopy, biopsy and sometimes with additional MRI or CT imaging. Biopsy is needed to know the special nature and histology of the tumor.
Read more about colorectal cancer from here.
If diagnosis is clear and all medical files have been acquired then traveling can be arranged only one or two days in advance before the start of treatment. Depending on the type of treatment and possible postoperative radiation or chemotherapy your total length of trip may be from weeks to months.
At the moment surgery is the only curative treatment for colorectal cancer. In the surgery the cancerous part of large intestine is cut off. Also some excessive tissue need removal as a safe margin. The surgery is either performed laparoscopically through abdomen, with a full lapartomy or through rectum for more rectal cancer. Surgery type is a lot dependent on which part of the large intestine the cancer is located.
Surgery is planned carefully with good imaging results. It is performed under general anesthesia and requires hospital ward stay for a few days. Normally patient is not to have a stoma after surgery – however, if tumor is locate close to rectal area a temporary or permanent stoma may be needed. This can be remodified later on with additional surgeries.
Postoperative radiation treatment for patients with more progressed tumor or higher risk factors is given on a case-by-case basis.
For metastatic colon cancer the projection is worse and requires more thorough analysis. In metastatic cancer additional chemotherapy or radiation treatment is combined with surgery of the primary tumor. Treatment time lasts longer and may take up to some months.
Recovery and rehabilitation
Recovery after procedure is highly individual but inward stay of a few days up to a week is recommended as some pain and dieting instructions are needed. Patient is required to stay in treatment location city for the postoperative radiation treatment as well, which may last up to some weeks. During this time accommodation in hotel or apartment is recommended.
Long-term recovery is primarily determined based on the TNM-classification of the primary tumor although surgery has been successful.
Regular postoperative screening is still needed to examine possible rebirth of the cancer. Blood test of stool annually helps to decrease mortality by 20% as it helps to locate early tumors. Positive family history with colorectal cancer is a sign to get tested regularly as well although you would be symptomless. Also patients with other inflammatory gastrointestinal disease belong to patient group where regular check-ups are needed.
Regular examination at your local physician with blood samples every year or two years is enough for postoperative screening. Additional colonoscopy or other imaging is also recommended every two years for the first five or six years from surgery.
Immediate risks from surgery are bleeding, pain, swelling and infection. Some damage to the large intestine is also possible which is minimized by using a laparoscopic surgery method. Although surgery is an effective way to treat colon cancer it may still renew over time. This is why regular screening at the physician’s appointment is needed. It is also possible that the safe margins in surgery are not large enough or some part of tumor has been missed.