July 7, 2011

Once colon cancer and/or rectal cancer is diagnosed, the stage of the cancer will be established to help determine the best treatment options. Staging the cancer involves determining if the cancer involves the inner lining of the colon only, whether it involves the whole colon, and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (the cancer cells can spread by evading surrounding normal tissue, through the lymphatic system (tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases, including the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and lymphatic vessels that are thin tubes that branch into all tissues of the body like blood vessels), and through the blood (the spread of the cancer cells from the original site to other parts of the body is known as metastasis)). There are different tests and procedures that may be done alone or in combination to determine the extent, location(s), and the aggressive of the cancer, including CT scan, MRI, PET scan, lymph node biopsy, CBC (complete blood count), carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) assay, and chest x-ray. These tests and procedures are a means of  evaluating the cancer so that the proper treatment(s) can begin.

As with most cancers, the earlier the diagnosis of the cancer, and the earlier treatment is begun, the better the prognosis for a successful outcome. Treatment may include chemotherapy (treatment with drugs), radiation therapy (treatment using high energy rays), surgery, and other options.

Depending on the stage of the cancer, the treatment may involve local excision of the tumor or polypectomy (removal of one or more effected polyps), resection (surgery to remove tissue or part of the colon), anastomosis (surgery to connect healthy sections of the colon after the diseased section is removed), chemotherapy, biologic therapy, and/or radiation therapy after surgery, palliative therapy (treatment to relieve symptoms and reduce suffering caused by the cancer), and targeted therapy such as monoclonal antibodies (a type of protein made in the lab that can attach to cancer cells).

New types of cancer treatments are being investigated all the time in what are known as clinical trials. More information regarding clinical trials can be obtained from the National Cancer Institute (click here for the link).

Colon cancer can recur after successful treatment. Recurrent colon cancer can be located in the colon, the lungs, the liver, or other parts of the body (colon cancer cells that travel to other parts of the body and cause cancer in other organs, such as the lungs or liver, is considered metastatic colon cancer even though the location of the cancer is outside of the colon).

The patient’s oncologist (cancer doctor) along with a surgical oncologist (a surgeon who specializes in cancer surgery), if appropriate, will determine the proper course of treatment in consultation with other medical professionals as needed. The patient should never feel left out of the treatment decisions and should feel comfortable with the treating specialists so that any questions can be answered to the patient’s satisfaction. Cancer patients should never feel that they do not have a right to question their treatment options or be involved with their treatment regimen. 

Source: NCI

If you have questions or concerns whether your cancer diagnosis and treatment were timely and properly made, a medical malpractice attorney may be able to investigate whether your cancer treatment was negligent and whether you may have a medical malpractice claim. Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim and represent you, if appropriate. Our toll free telephone number is 800-295-3959. Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.