What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer begins when healthy cells in the lining of the colon or rectum change and grow out of control. This cell growth can form a noncancerous polyp that could become a cancerous tumour. Most colon and rectal cancers are a type of tumour called adenocarcinoma. Colorectal cancer is the thirteenth most common type of cancer diagnosed in India.
What is the function of the colon and rectum?
The colon and rectum make up the large intestine, which plays an important role in the body’s ability to process waste. The large intestine turns food digested by the stomach and small intestine into fecal waste, or stool, that leaves the body through the anus.
What does stage mean?
The stage is a way of describing where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body. There are 5 stages for colorectal cancer: stage 0 (zero) and stages I through IV (1 through 4).
How is colorectal cancer treated?
The treatment of colorectal cancer depends on the location and extent of the tumour, whether the cancer has spread, and the person’s overall health. For cancers that start in the colon, surgery is typically the first treatment. For cancers that start in the rectum (the last 4 to 5 inches of the large intestine), surgery may be the first treatment or chemotherapy and/or radiation may be given before surgery. Additional treatment may be given to lower the risk of the cancer returning or to treat cancer that has spread. This may include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. If the cancer has spread outside the colon and rectum, then chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy will be used. Occasionally, surgery may also be used to remove cancer that has spread past the colon and rectum. When making treatment decisions, people may also consider a clinical trial. Talk with your doctor about all treatment options. The side effects of colorectal cancer treatment can often be prevented or managed with the help of your health care team. This is called palliative care or supportive care and is an important part of the overall treatment plan.
Regular communication is important in making informed decisions about your health care. It can be helpful to bring someone along to your appointments to take notes and understand.
Consider asking your health care team the following questions:
1. What type of colon or rectal cancer do I have?
2. Where exactly is the cancer located?
3. Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?
4. What stage is the colon or rectal cancer? What does this mean?
5. Does my tumour need testing for microsatellite instability and other molecular features?
6. Would you explain my treatment options?
7. What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?`
8. What is the goal of each treatment? Is it to eliminate the cancer, help me feel better, or both?
9. Who will be part of my treatment team, and what does each member do? Do they have experience treating colorectal cancer?
10. How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
11. Will this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have children?
12. What long-term side effects may be associated with my cancer treatment?
13. If I’m worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me?