Colon cancer refers to the cancerous growth in colon, the upper part of the large intestine. The disease progresses in stages. It can be cured completely in its early stages. Common treatment options are surgery and radiation therapy. In later stages when the cancer spreads to surrounding tissues and organs, chemotherapy is the treatment of choice. The five year survival rate has improved with increasing awareness and the death rate is falling.

If colon cancer is detected in its early stages, it can be cured or at least contained so that it does not spread to other organs. For this reason, it is necessary to get screened for colon cancer regularly after the age of fifty, especially if the risk factors are high in your case.

Stages and survival rate of Colon Cancer

Five stages of colon cancer are identified. The five year survival rate of colon cancer has been worked out by the American Cancer Society.

Stage Symptoms Treatment of choice 5 year survival rate
Stage 0 Carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells in mucosa) Local excision 74%
Stage I Cancer in mucosa and spread to submucosa Resection and anastomosis 65%
Stage II Cancer spread to submucosa, muscle and muscle wall Resection and anastomosis 54.3%
Stage III Cancer spread through the muscle wall and surrounding lymph nodes Resection and anastomosis followed by chemotherapy 49%
Stage IV Cancer spreads to lymph nodes, organs near the colon and to one or more organ at a distance from the colon Local excision, resection, chemotherapy, radiation therapy 6%

Conventional treatment options for colon cancer

There are four conventional treatment options for colon cancer.

  1. Surgery
  2. Radiation therapy
  3. Chemotherapy
  4. Targeted drug therapy

Surgery is the treatment of choice for early stages of colon cancer. The malignant polyps are removed by surgery. In early stages, laparoscopic surgery may be used. Instruments are inserted through small incisions in the abdomen which display your colon with a camera. The malignant polyps are identified and removed. If the cancer has not spread beyond the mucosa, this treatment may remove the cancer effectively.

In some cases chemotherapy is used in combination with surgery. Drugs are given to reduce the size of the carcinoma before they are removed by surgery. In case the cancer has spread over large portion of the colon, surgery is done to remove part of the colon. This is known as colon resection. The infected parts of the colon as well as some normal tissues on the sides and nearby lymph nodes are removed.

In some cases this may have to be accompanied by colostomy. This is needed if the cancer occurs at the junction of the colon and the rectum. An outlet is created on your abdominal wall so that the waste flows out to a special bag.

Radiation therapy is another choice but it is either used in the late stages of the cancer or in combination with surgery. Powerful rays like x rays are used to kill and shrink cancerous cells which can then easily be removed by surgery. Both ablation (burning the cancer cells) and cryotherapy (freezing the cancer cells) are used.

Chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. If the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes or surrounding organs, drugs are used to relieve the symptoms and to prevent the growth of tumor. Irinotecan, oxiloplatin etc are used.
Finally, for people with advanced stages of colon cancer targeted drug therapy is tried but they do not always work. These drugs target the defects that allow the cancer cells to grow and multiply. Some examples include bevacizumab (Avastin), cetuximab (Erbitux) and panitumumab (Vectibix). They are often given in combination with chemotherapy.

Ayurvedic treatment for colon cancer

Several herbal remedies are suggested in Ayurveda to treat colon cancer. Some of them are as follows:

  • Ashwagandha can be taken in capsule or powdered form. It arrests the spread of cancer.
  • Roots or teas prepared from ginger and garlic have healing properties.
  • Regular intake of green tea improves the general health of colon.

If you opt for ayurvedic treatment, you should consult a qualified practitioner before you take the medicines.