Colon Cancer Chemotherapy

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If you have been diagnosed with colon cancer, you may be a candidate for chemotherapy. Colon cancer chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill colon cancer cells. There are several types of chemotherapyeach of which have side effects.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a term used by doctors to refer to drugs that can kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy was formed from mustard gases during the 1st World-War. The term "chemotherapy" literally means "chemical treatment" and is one way to help the body kill off cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be given in different ways, including intravenously by injection, intravenously with a pump, or even in pill form. If chemotherapy is given prior to surgery, it may shrink the tumor so that the surgeon can completely remove it with fewer complications. Chemotherapy is sometimes recommended for stage 2 colon cancer, and usually recommended for stage 3 and stage 4 colon cancer. Chemotherapy for colon cancer can involve one or more of eight possible drugs off the chemotherapy drugs list. The most popular of these drugs is 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU). It is usually used in combination with leucovorin (a vitamin), making 5-FU more effective. 5-FU is given intravenously; however, a pill form has been developed recently. For patients where the cancer has spread from the colon, a variety of other drugs may be given. Among the drugs given are Camptosar, Eloxatin, Avastin, Erbitux, and Vectibix.

Side Effects

Colon cancer chemotherapy is often associated with unpleasant side effects. Chemotherapy is used to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells; however, it also kills other rapidly dividing healthy cells in our bodies. For most patients, undergoing chemotherapy comes with significant side effects that can place quite a strain on their body. The side effects of chemotherapy can include:


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Rash on the hands and feet
  • Diarrhea

Other common side effects include lowered white and red blood cell count (which can lead to anemia and increased risk of infection), sun sensitivity, and darkening of the skin and nail beds. Effects on the bone marrow result in an increased risk of infection (due to low white blood cell counts),and bleeding or bruising from minor injuries (due to low blood platelet counts). The side effects that occur with chemotherapy depend upon the particular drugs given and the individual. Each chemotherapy drug has side effects, although not everyone will be effected the same way. In many cases, the uncomfortable effects can be treated or prevented with medications. A change in your diet may also help relieve some of the effects of the drugs. Many of the effects of chemotherapy are manageable, especially with the help of your doctors. Although it may take some time, when chemotherapy is stopped, the effects related to the drugs will wear off.

Colon cancer chemotherapy is a systemic therapy, meaning that the drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body. Doctors can suggest ways to help relieve symptoms that may occur during and after a patients colon cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment strategy for you.

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