What Are the Treatments for Colon Cancer vs. Ulcerative Colitis?
Colon Cancer Treatment
Polyps, if suggestive of being either cancer-related or cancer-specific in appearance and if few in number, may be removed during colonoscopy (polypectomy). Sometimes only a polyp is found to be cancerous, and removal (polypectomy) of the polyp may be all that is necessary.
Although the primary treatment of colon cancer is to surgically remove part of the colon or all of it (colectomy) in some patients, chemotherapy after surgery can improve the likelihood of being cured if the colon cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Radiation treatment (radiation therapy) after surgery does not improve cure rates in people with colon cancer, but it is important for people with rectal cancer. Radiation may reduce tumor size if given before surgery. This can improve the chances that the tumor will be removed successfully. Radiation before surgery also appears to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after treatment. Radiation plus chemotherapy before or after surgery for rectal cancer can improve the likelihood that the cancer will be cured.
Usually, only a portion of the colon is removed to treat colon cancer. In rare circumstances, such as in longstanding ulcerative colitis or in cases where large numbers of polyps are found, then the entire colon may need to be removed. Most colon cancer surgery will not result in a colostomy (piece of colon is diverted and opens through portion of the abdominal wall) being necessary as the bowel having been cleaned out prior to surgery can then safely be reconnected (resection) after a portion is removed. In rectal cancer sometimes, a colostomy is necessary if it is not safe or feasible to reconnect the portions of the rectum and anus that remain after the cancer involved area is removed.
Surgery may also be done to relieve symptoms in advanced cancer such as when the cancer has caused a bowel obstruction. The usual procedure is bypass for obstructions that cannot be cured. Rarely, colon cancer, such as with such severe blockage (obstruction), a resection cannot be done.
Ulcerative Colitis Treatment
Treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the disease. Most people with ulcerative colitis are treated with medication. If you have significant bleeding, infection, or complications, surgery may be required to remove the diseased colon. Surgery is the only cure for ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis may affect individuals in different ways, and treatment is adjusted to meet the needs of the specific individual. Emotional and psychological support is also important.
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis come and go. Periods of remission, in which symptoms resolve, may last for months or years before relapsing. You and your healthcare team, together, need to decide whether medications will be continued during remission times. Medications help manage ulcerative colitis, and stopping them will cause a relapse.
Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong illness and cannot be cured. Routine medical check-ups are necessary and scheduled colonoscopies are important to monitor your health and to make sure that you are managing your ulcerative colitis, and that it is not spreading.