Colorectal cancer – what’s in store for me

Colorectal cancer – what's in store for me?

You have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having colorectal cancer. In most cases, colon cancer can be treated well in its early stages. However, the diagnosis can be shocking and frightening.

Here you can find out what colorectal cancer is and what examinations you will have to undergo after diagnosis. You can also read which treatments experts recommend.

At a glance

Colorectal cancer is a common cancer. In 2014, 33,000 men and 28,000 women were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in Germany. A distinction is made between cancer in the colon or rectum.

To detect colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy is the most reliable method.

An important part of treatment is surgery to remove the cancer completely. Under certain circumstances, radiation or chemotherapy in addition to surgery can improve the chances of recovery.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in Germany. It can occur in all sections of the intestine. Colorectal cancer usually refers to tumors in the large intestine (Colon) or in the rectum (Rectum) meant. The technical term is colorectal carcinom.

The disease usually develops in stages. Initially, the intestinal mucosa thickens in one place. From this Polyp are formed. This can – but does not have to – change over time. Often it takes 5 to 10 years for a small polyp to become cancerous.

How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?

Colorectal cancer is best detected with a colonoscopy. Here, doctors can take tie samples and have them examined in the laboratory.

If the suspicion is confirmed, further examinations clarify how far the cancer has progressed: experts recommend a palpation of the rectum and an ultrasound of the abdominal cavity for this purpose. Indications are also given by an X-ray of the chest and a test for the Tumor marker CEA in the blood.

In the case of rectal cancer, other examinations are also performed: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound of the rectum "from the inside" (Endoscopy) and a rectoscopy with a rigid tube. Other procedures are not routinely used.

What stages of the disease are there?

To find the right treatment, it is important to know how far the cancer has spread. This is what this classification is for:

– Stage I: The cancer is limited to the muscular layer of the intestine.

– Stage II: The cancer has reached the outer layer of the intestinal wall or has grown into neighboring tie.

– Stage III: The cancer has spread to surrounding lymph nodes, but no other organs.

– Stage IV: The cancer has affected other organs.

With "early stage this information means stages I, II and III. Then the cancer has not spread. The course of the disease is often favorable. Overall, out of 100 people with colorectal cancer, about 62 are still alive after 5 years. The lower the stage of the disease, the better the chance of cure.

How is colorectal cancer treated in its early stages?

The most important procedure is surgery to remove colon cancer as completely as possible.

If the cancer is several centimeters from the sphincter, it can usually be preserved. Sometimes, however, an artificial anus (Stoma) necessary. It is required more often for cancer in the rectum than for cancer in the colon. A stoma can be temporary or permanent.

Complementary treatments

Experts recommend other treatments in addition to surgery. Depending on the location of the cancer, doctors take different approaches.

Cancer of the colon:

After surgery, chemotherapy can improve the chances of healing. The prerequisite is that the cancer is completely removed. Incidentally:

Stage III disease Should receive chemotherapy after surgery. In high-quality studies, this has shown a survival advantage.

– At Diseased in stage II the data situation is not clear. It can be considered for some affected persons.

Sufferers in stage I Have no benefit from chemotherapy. It is therefore not recommended.

Cancer in the rectum:

Depending on where the cancer is located in the rectum, radiation with or without chemotherapy may be advisable prior to surgery. This should reduce the size of the tumor. To prevent a relapse. After the surgery, further treatment may follow. But not for all these complementary procedures are suitable:

Patients with stage II and III disease with cancer in the lower or middle part of the rectum should have a Radiation chemotherapy or a Short-term irradiation get. This can reduce the risk of relapse. This means that the sphincter muscle can often be preserved during surgery as well. That this pretreatment prolongs life is not proven. In exceptions, surgery without pretreatment is also possible. If the cancer is located in the upper part of the rectum, pretreatment is only an option in some situations, for example if the cancer is very large or lymph nodes are affected. After surgery, experts recommend radiation chemotherapy if there has been no prior treatment and there is a high risk of recurrence. Under certain circumstances, however, chemotherapy alone is also possible after the operation.

Stage I patients have no benefit from complementary treatment. Experts therefore advise against it at this stage.

What you can do yourself

Surgery, chemotherapy or radiation can have side effects. It is important that you inform your treatment team if you feel any changes or adverse effects.

Even when your treatment is over, you will continue to be cared for. Try to keep the appointments for follow-up care.

Many people get along well with an artificial bowel outlet. Self-help organizations provide tips for dealing with a stoma.

In case of psychological stress, you can seek psycho-oncological help. Talk to your treatment team about it.

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