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What can colorectal cancer patients expect from chemotherapy treatment? This article discusses the most commonly used drugs and their side effects.

Cancer treatment and survival rates are continuously improving, but a cancer diagnosis remains extremely frightening. Chemotherapy is often an integral part of the treatment of colorectal cancer, along with surgery and sometimes radiotherapy. This article discusses the chemotherapy drugs that are most frequently used for colorectal cancer, and their side effects.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment Varies Per Stage

Stage 0 colorectal cancer patients generally have their polyps removed surgically, by colonoscopy. Unless the whole polyp was not removed, no further treatment is needed. For stage I patients, having the tumor and lymph nodes removed is usually the only required treatment. 

Stage II patients sometimes receive chemotherapy after their surgery to remove any stray cancer cells. Rectal cancer patients may receive radiotherapy as well. Cure rates are generally very good for this stage of colorectal cancer. 

Stage III patients face a similar treatment course as stage I patients, with the difference that chemotherapy is administered most of the time rather than sometimes. Radiotherapy is, again, common for rectal cancer patients.

Stage IV colorectal cancer is metastatic, meaning that it has spread to other parts of the body as well. It can affect the liver, lungs, abdomen, ovaries and other organs. These patients may receive a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Doctors who are experienced in dealing with this stage of cancer are essential. Clinical trials may be a viable option for stage IV colorectal cancer patients. 

Chemotherapy — Adjuvant, Neoadjuvant, And Advanced Cancer Support

Adjuvant chemotherapy is the term for chemotherapy administered after all visible cancer is surgically removed. This type of chemotherapy serves to destroy the small number of cancer cells that may not have been caught by surgery, and that may be left around the main tumor's location or could have spread to other parts of the body. It reduces the risk that the cancer will return later. Patients with stage II and III colon cancer or colon cancer have been shown to live longer when they receive adjuvant chemotherapy. 

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy refers to chemotherapy before surgery, to shrink the tumor and make an operation easier. This is frequently used for patients who have rectal cancer. 

In patients with advanced cancer, chemotherapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumor and relieve the symptoms of cancer that has spread. While this treatment is not expected to destroy the cancer completely, it does add to the comfort of those with advanced cancer, and often increases their life expectancy.

Systemic chemotherapy enters the blood stream and reach the whole body. Useful for patients whose cancer has spread to various parts of the body, it can be given intravenously or orally. Regional chemo is, meanwhile, more targeted. In this case, the chemotherapy is injected in an artery that leads directly to the tumor. If the cancer is localized, this method can increase effectiveness while reducing the side effects a patient will experience. 

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