Chemotherapy is simply a term used by doctors that refers to drugs that can kill cancer cells. There are a variety of ways in which chemotherapy drugs can be given to the patient. This includes intravenously through injection, intravenously using a pump or oral form through a pill. There are different drugs that work for specific cancers. Each drug has particular doses and schedules for taking it. There are several types of chemotherapy for colon cancer.
This is done when the colon cancer is advanced or has already spread to different parts of the body. In such cases, surgery alone cannot get rid of the cancer. Chemotherapy is used to shrink tumours, alleviate symptoms and extend the life of the patient.
This is when the treatment is done after the cancer has already been removed surgically. The surgery usually doesn’t get rid of all the cancer so adjuvant chemotherapy is necessary to kill cancer cells that are not removed. When the cells have spread to the liver, this procedure is typically necessary.
This type of chemotherapy is given before the colon cancer surgery. This procedure aims to shrink the tumour so that the surgeon will have an easier time removing it with less complication. Chemotherapy can also be given with radiation since it makes the radiation treatment more effective.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy for Colon Cancer
Since chemotherapy involves killing rapidly dividing cancer cells, it also kills the healthy cells that are rapidly dividing in the body. This includes the membranes lining the gastrointestinal tract, hair follicles, membranes lining the mouth and the bone marrow. The result is a variety of side effects from the treatment due to the damaged cells in these areas.
There are many possible side effects from chemotherapy for colon cancer including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, mouth sores, diarrhea and rashes particularly on the hands and feet. It also lowers white blood cell counts so there is usually an increased risk of infection. Also, because of the low blood platelet counts, bleeding or bruising from minor wounds or injuries usually occur.
The side effects from chemotherapy depend on the particular case including the drugs given and the specific type of colon cancer the patient has. For example, hair loss is not a common side effect in most colorectal cancer chemotherapy treatments. However, some people experience thinning hair. When the treatment is stopped, the side effects usually disappear after some time.