Based on information obtained from the Ministry of Health's National Cancer Mitigation Committee, the incidence of colon cancer in Indonesia is 12.8 per 100,000 adults, with the mortality rate reaching 9.5% of the total cases of cancer. Nearly half of cancer patients are advised to undergo radiotherapy as the first line of treatment for the disease. Here's all you need to know about how it works, the types, and possible side effects of radiotherapy for colon cancer.
What is radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy is radiation therapy using high-powered light or particles (such as x-rays) to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be part of the treatment of colon cancer or rectal cancer.
Radiotherapy is most widely used in people with colon cancer when the cancer is attached to the internal organs or abdominal wall. When this happens, the surgeon cannot be sure that all cancers have been removed, and radiation therapy can be used to try to kill cancer cells that may remain after surgery.
Radiation therapy is also used to treat colon cancer that has spread. Most often used when the spread spreads to the bones or brain.
How radiotherapy works for colon cancer
For rectal cancer, radiation therapy is usually used before or after surgery to help prevent cancer returning to the area where the first tumor grows. This therapy is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy. Many doctors now prefer to provide radiation therapy before surgery, because this can facilitate the removal of cancer, especially if the size and /or position of the cancer can make surgery difficult.
Radiotherapy for colon cancer before surgery can reduce the risk of recurrence of tumors in the pelvis. This can also result in reduced complications such as the formation of scar tissue that can cause defecation. Radiotherapy can also be given to help control rectal cancer in people who are not healthy enough for surgery or to relieve symptoms in advanced cancer patients that cause intestinal blockages, bleeding, or pain.
Types of radiotherapy for colon cancer
Various types of radiation therapy can be used to treat colon cancer and rectal cancer.
External beam radiation therapy
This is the type of radiation therapy that is most often used for people with colon cancer. Radiation is focused on cancer from a machine outside the body.
Before treatment begins, the radiation team assesses carefully to determine the right angle to target the radiation beam and the right radiation dose. External radiation therapy is very similar to undergoing x-rays, but the radiation is more intense and the procedure itself does not cause pain. Each treatment only lasts a few minutes, but the preparation time — preparing you in the right position for treatment — usually takes longer. Radiation treatment is most often given 5 days a week for several weeks, but the duration can be shorter if given before surgery.
Endocrine radiation therapy
This type of treatment is used for some rectal cancers. A small device is inserted through the anus into the rectum to deliver high-intensity radiation within minutes. This is repeated about 3 times with a gap of about 2 weeks for the full dose. The advantage of this approach is that radiation reaches the rectum without penetrating through the skin and other abdominal tissues, which means reducing the risk of possible side effects. This can allow some patients, especially elderly patients, to avoid major surgery and colostomy. This therapy is only used for small tumors. Sometimes, external beam radiation therapy is also given.
Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy)
Brachytherapy uses small radioactive pallets that are inserted into a catheter or hose placed near or directly inside the cancer. Radiation is delivered only to short distances, limiting the impact on surrounding healthy tissue. Sometimes this is used to treat people with rectal cancer, especially those who are not healthy enough to tolerate curative surgery. This can be done several times a week for several weeks, but it can also be done once.
Radiotherapy can also be given in the embolization procedure.
Side effects of radiation therapy for colon cancer
If you are going to undergo radiation therapy for colon cancer, it is important that you consult a doctor about possible side effects so that you know what you have to deal with. Possible side effects from radiation therapy for colon cancer and rectal cancer can include:
- Skin irritation in the target location of the radiation beam, which can range from redness to blistering and flaking
- rectal irritation, which can cause diarrhea, pain during bowel movements, or blood in the stool
- Intestinal incontinence (faecal leak)
- Bladder irritation, which can cause disorders such as the urge to urinate frequently, burning or pain when urinating, or blood in urine
- Fatigue /exhaustion
- Sexual disorders (impotence in men and vaginal irritation in women)
Most side effects usually diminish after treatment is resolved, but disorders such as rectal and bladder irritation may not heal completely. If you begin to realize the occurrence of these side effects, immediately consult a doctor so that actions can be taken to reduce or alleviate them.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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