A malignant colon polyp--also known as colon cancer--occurs in the large intestine. Most cases of colon cancer begin as a small noncancerous polyp that becomes malignant over time. There were 106,100 new cases of colon cancer in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society. Colon cancer can cause rectal bleeding, abdominal discomfort, changes in bowel habits and fatigue. There are a number of treatments that can be used to eradicate colon cancer. Physicians will create a specialized treatment plan dependent upon the stage of the cancer.
If colon cancer is caught early enough, physicians may be able to treat polyps by simply removing them with a loop of wire using a scope inserted through the anus. In more advanced cases of colon cancer, a bowel resection is often required. During a bowel resection, surgeons remove the diseased section of the colon and attach a healthy section of colon to the rectum to maintain the patient’s normal bowel function. In some cases, due to inflammation, surgeons may be unable to reconnect the colon and rectum and therefore must perform a colostomy. A colostomy procedure attaches the healthy colon to an opening on the abdominal wall created by the surgeon. Wastes will leave the body through the new abdominal opening called a stoma. In many cases, colostomy is temporary, and once inflammation has settled, physicians may be able to reconnect the colon and rectum, allowing the bowels to function normally once again. In late stages of colon cancer, surgeons may need to remove the entire colon and rectum
After surgery, physicians often use drugs to fight any remaining cancer cells. Physicians may prescribe chemotherapy drugs taken by mouth or injected into a vein. Physicians sometimes prescribe chemotherapy prior to surgery to shrink tumors and make surgery easier. When used with patients who have advanced cancer, chemotherapy may help alleviate symptoms and help them live longer. Chemotherapy medications work by killing cancer cells, but it also damages some normal cells and causes side effects. Common side effects of chemotherapy medications include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, rashes, mouth sores, fatigue, increased chance of infection and bleeding.
Radiation treatment uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, according to the American Cancer Society. Physicians may give radiation therapy either externally or by placing radioactive materials in the body. When used after surgery, radiation can kill any small clusters of cancer cells that may have been missed during the surgery. If the tumors are large, physicians may administer radiation therapy prior to surgery to shrink the tumors and make them easier to remove. Doctors use radiation therapy most commonly in people with colon cancer that has attached to an internal organ or the lining of the belly in order to assure that any cancerous cells left behind will die.