Understanding Colon Cancer Treatment

July 2, 2024

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum. It is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. Treatment for colon cancer depends on the stage of the cancer, as well as other factors such as the patient’s overall health and preferences. While there is no definitive “cure” for colon cancer, treatment aims to remove the cancerous tissue, prevent its spread, and reduce the risk of recurrence.


Surgery is often the primary treatment for colon cancer, especially if the cancer is detected at an early stage. Depending on the location and extent of the cancer, different surgical approaches may be taken. A common procedure is a colectomy, where a portion of the colon containing the cancer is removed. In some cases, minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic surgery can be employed, resulting in shorter recovery times and less postoperative pain. For advanced cases, surgery might involve removing nearby lymph nodes and other tissues to ensure that all cancerous cells are eradicated.. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. In early-stage colon cancer, surgery may be curative, meaning it removes all of the cancer. In advanced cases, surgery may be used to relieve symptoms and prolong survival.


Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to shrink the tumor, making it easier to remove, or after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) to kill any remaining cancer cells. In advanced cases, chemotherapy may be used to slow the growth of the cancer and relieve symptoms.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. It is not commonly used in the treatment of colon cancer, but may be used in certain situations, such as to shrink a large tumor before surgery or to relieve symptoms in advanced cases.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that targets specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. It may be used in combination with chemotherapy or on its own to treat advanced colon cancer.


Immunotherapy is a treatment that utilizes the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. This type of therapy works by enhancing the natural immune response or by introducing substances that specifically target and destroy cancer cells. For patients with advanced colon cancer, immunotherapy may be an option if their tumors exhibit certain genetic characteristics, such as microsatellite instability (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficiency (dMMR). This treatment is still relatively new in the field of colon cancer, but it shows promise in increasing survival rates and providing long-term remission for some patients.

Supportive Care

Supportive care, also known as palliative care, is an approach to improve the quality of life for patients with colon cancer, especially those with advanced stages of the disease. This type of care focuses on providing relief from symptoms, pain, and stress, aiming to address the emotional, social, and psychological impacts of cancer. Supportive care may include pain management, nutritional support, counseling, and assistance with daily activities. Integrating supportive care early in the treatment process can enhance patient comfort, promote better symptom control, and provide invaluable support to both patients and their families.


While there is no definitive “cure” for colon cancer, advances in treatment have significantly improved the outlook for people with this disease. Treatment options vary depending on the stage of the cancer, and a multidisciplinary approach involving surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy may be used to effectively treat colon cancer and improve survival rates. Early detection through screening is crucial for improving outcomes, as it can lead to the detection and removal of precancerous polyps before they develop into cancer.