Possible Side Effects Of Chemo
Chemo drugs attack cells that are dividing quickly, which is why they work against cancer cells. But other cells in the body, such as those in hair follicles and in the lining of the mouth and intestines, are also dividing quickly. These cells can be affected by chemo too, which can lead to side effects.
The side effects of chemo depend on the type and dose of drugs given and how long you take them. Common side effects of chemo can include:
Chemo can also affect the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow, which can lead to:
- Increased chance of infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
Other side effects are specific to certain drugs. Ask your cancer care team about the possible side effects of the specific drugs you are getting. For example:
Most of these side effects tend to go away over time after treatment ends. Some, such as hand and foot numbness from oxaliplatin, may last for a long time. There are often ways to lessen these side effects. For example, you can be given drugs to help prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting or you may be told to keep ice chips in your mouth while chemo is being given to lower the chances of getting mouth sores.
Older people seem to be able to tolerate some types of chemo for colon or rectal cancer fairly well. Age is no reason to withhold treatment in otherwise healthy people.
Common Myths About Colon Cancer
We hear misconceptions about colon cancer every day. One of them is that women dont need to get colonoscopies.
Thats not true, and we have real-life proof. One of our most memorable patients was a woman in her 30s. She worked in marketing and was training for a marathon when she noticed some blood in her stool. She didnt think a whole lot about it, but a month later she did the right thing and got a colonoscopy.
Within days, she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Her life was turned upside down. Using a common surgical procedure, we removed the cancer from her colon and part of her liver. Its been nearly 5 years now, and shes doing great.
As a medical community, we have a long way to go in educating people and correcting misconceptions about colon cancer. Here are some of the most common myths weve heard:
Myth: If I have colon cancer, Im going to need extensive treatment over a long period of time.
Fact: Getting any kind of cancer diagnosis is frightening, but a majority of patients diagnosed with colon cancer have a solvable problem. Many colon cancers can be treated with a relatively common surgical procedure that is performed using an incision no larger than 3 inches.
Myth: Most of the time, when you are diagnosed with colon cancer, it is already spreading to other parts of your body.
Myth: If my colon cancer has spread, I probably wont live very long. My cancer will never be cured.
A Stage 4 Cancer Chemotherapy Breakthrough
Many have been faced with the all-too-common dilemma that arises when the oncologist orders a standard regime of chemotherapy to treat their advanced or stage 4 cancers, even after chemotherapy had previously failed. Patients often feel that the course of treatment can be worse than the disease itself. What’s more, there is seldom time to seek other specialized treatment options or to make a truly informed decision. Feeling rushed will likely amplify stress for the mind and body already overwhelmed by circumstance.
So what’s a person to do? Let us first identify some common failures in the Stage 4 Cancer treatment process. Then, together we can explore some new life-changing solutions made available through our decade-plus clinical experience working with the most difficult cancers.
Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Life Expectancy
If you have metastatic colorectal cancer, your life expectancy will vary based on a number of factors, including your stage and type.
Colorectal cancer can be localized, which means its contained within the rectum or colon or it can be metastatic, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body. If it has reached nearby parts, its known as regional cancer. If the spread is farther way, its known as distant cancer.
The average five-year survival rate for colon cancer is 72 percent for regional and 14 percent for distant cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. If you have rectal cancer, the five-year survival rate estimate is 73 percent for regional cancer and 17 percent for distant cancer.
As treatment options improve, so do survival rates. Everyones circumstances are unique, so be sure to discuss your specific situation with your care team.
Stage 4 Colon Cancer Free
Three years later Newland continues to be in remission. Stage 4 colon cancer isnt always terminal, Gupta says. A proportion of patients, especially those with limited liver disease, do very well and can be potentially cured.
Newland credits her doctors for using a whole-person approach in her care. When she gained significant weight during treatment, her medical team suggested she try physical therapy at Rehabilitation ServicesBangor to reduce possible lymphedema . Last October, Newland took their advice again and underwent weight-loss surgery with bariatric surgeon Richard Boorse, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery. Since then she has dropped 123 pounds, down from 315.
My doctors and staff at LVHN never treated me as just an organ, Newland says. They cared for me from top to bottom. Im cancer-free, Im healthy, and Im living all because they made me feel special and never, ever gave up on me. I truly believe Im here because of their support and encouragement and the quality of care I received. I will never go anywhere else.
Recommended Reading: Chemo Pills For Ovarian Cancer
What Is Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer beyond its primary site of origin. For instance, a cancer originatingin thecolon or the rectum, can spread or metastasize to the nearby lymph nodes and gradually affect distant regionssuch asthe lungs, liver, brain, or bones.
Metastasis from the primary site of cancer can begin even when the polyp or tumor size is as smallas 2mm in diameter,often the size seen in early stage II or stage I fully contained tumors. Tiny micro-metastatic cancer cellsbreak awayfrom a growing tumor and travel through blood vessels, seeding the disease at different regions or organs.
At Envita, we have several proprietary treatments beyond standard healthcare options likeradiofrequencyablations andhepatic arterial infusions to address liver metastases or other sites of colorectal cancer spread, such aslungs, bones,or any other organs.
- Nurses trained in precision treatment delivery andoncology nursing
Chemotherapy Is Only 2% Effective In Late Stage Cancers
Many late stage cancer patients have endured unforgiving chemo treatment regimens only to realize minimal benefits, or worse, to discover their cancer was completely unresponsive. When accepting new treatments, most patients are not aware that chemotherapy is just 2 percent effective in late stage cancers after a five year period.
Despite the National Cancer Institute’s forty years of scientific research , stage 3 and 4 chemotherapy-driven cancer treatments have not progressed a whole lot. In fact, the treatments typically do not work.
In his book An Anatomy of Failure: A Blueprint for Future Years, Dr. Guy B. Faguet* suggests that chemotherapy has not been shown to assist or advance survival beyond five years in most adults who suffer with advanced and late stage cancers. The MD and Professor in the Hematology and Oncology Division at the Medical College of Georgia did a comprehensive job of exploring the potency and effectiveness of conventional chemotherapy. The doctor asserts that beyond decided proficiencies in treating a few types of cancers, like acute lymphocytic leukemia in youngsters, or choriocarcinoma, germ cell growths found in youths, chemo has a disappointing track-record.
Read Also: Can Non Smokers Get Lung Cancer
Chemotherapy For Colorectal Cancer
Chemotherapy is treatment with anti-cancer drugs that may be injected into a vein or taken by mouth. These drugs travel through the bloodstream and reach most parts of the body. Chemo is often used to treat colorectal cancer.
Chemo may be used at different times during treatment for colorectal cancer:
- Adjuvant chemo is given after surgery. The goal is to kill cancer cells that might have been left behind at surgery because they were too small to see, as well as cancer cells that might have escaped from the main colon or rectal cancer to settle in other parts of the body but are too small to see on imaging tests. This helps lower the chance that the cancer will come back.
- Neoadjuvant chemo is given before surgery to try to shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove. This is often done for rectal cancer.
- For advanced cancers that have spread to other organs like the liver, chemo can be used to help shrink tumors and ease problems they’re causing. While it’s not likely to cure the cancer, this often helps people feel better and live longer.
Colon And Rectal Cancer Stages
There are five stages of colorectal cancer, ranging from 0 to 4. Doctors may also follow the stage number with a letter that offers more information.
Generally, the higher the number and letter, the more advanced the cancer.
Stage 0 The cancer is in its earliest stage, called carcinoma in situ or intramucosal carcinoma. It has not grown beyond the inner layer of the colon or rectum .
Stage 1 The cancer has grown into the submucosa, and possibly into the thick muscle layer beneath it . It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites .
Stage 2A The cancer has grown into the wall of the colon or rectum but not through it. It has not reached nearby organs or lymph nodes or spread to distant sites .
Stage 2B The cancer has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum but not into nearby tissues or organs. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites .
Stage 2C The cancer has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum and is attached to or has grown into other nearby tissues or organs. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites .
Stage 3A The cancer has grown into the submucosa and possibly the muscularis propria it has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes or into areas of fat near the lymph nodes, but not to distant sites .
The cancer has grown into the submucosa and spread to 4 to 6 nearby lymph nodes but not to distant sites .
Stage 4C The cancer has spread to distant parts of the peritoneum .
Read Also: Types Of Radiation For Prostate Cancer
Home Support Can Affect Survival
Stage IV colon cancer can be extremely painful and difficult. Patients may experience abdominal pain and bloat. Constipation and diarrhea are also common with long, thin stools. There is also general fatigue and weakness, and often weight loss.
This means that patients require a lot of support at home. The extent of that support, and emotional atmosphere, may even affect how long they survive. The patient’s attitude toward the disease and initiative in self-care can also affect their quality of life and possibly survival.
When To Stop Treatment
While we have better treatments than in the past, and sometimes can even treat metastases, we know that many people with stage 4 colon cancer will reach a time at which the risks and side effects of treatment outweigh the benefits.
The advent of new treatments is a double-edged sword. These newer treatments can extend life and provide options not available just a few short years ago.
In the past, we often simply ran out of treatments to offer, but today we have reached a point in which the choice to discontinue treatments often needs to be an active decision. If you are at this point in your journey, make sure to ask a lot of questions, and carefully contemplate the answers.
In addition to having to make decisions about when to stop treatment, people have to learn about and consider taking part in clinical trialssome of which have been changing the outlook for stage 4 colon cancer considerably. It’s important to learn all you can about your cancer.
Also Check: Do You Always Lose Hair With Chemo
Strategies To Improve Treatment
The major research focus in advanced colon cancer is the identification of additional cancer driving mutations as targets for precision cancer medicines and the development of immunotherapy treatment strategies.
Precision cancer medicine uses targeted drugs and immunotherapies engineered to directly attack colon cancer cells with specific abnormalities, leaving normal cells largely unharmed. Development of precision medicines are for the treatment of colon cancer is ongoing and these novel medicines are first utilized patients with recurrent cancers and once proven effective they become available through clinical trials for treatment of earlier stage disease. All patients need to make sure their cancer undergoes genomic profiling. This can also be accomplished with a tissue sample and in blood using a “liquid biopsy” if tissue is not available.
Health History Affects The Risk Of Developing Colon Cancer
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer not having risk factors doesnt mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk for colorectal cancer.
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include the following:
- Having a personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, or ovary.
- Having a personal history of high-risk adenomas .
- Having inherited changes in certain genes that increase the risk of familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome .
- Having a personal history of chroniculcerative colitis or Crohn disease for 8 years or more.
- Having three or more alcoholic drinks per day.
Read Also: How Long Chemo For Breast Cancer
Fit And Healthy Father Diagnosed With Stage 4 Bowel Cancer Reveals First Warning Sign
A fit and healthy father diagnosed with stage four cancer says he was left looking like the Nightmare on Elm Street after a horrific reaction to chemotherapy left him too embarrassed to go to his young sons cricket matches and is now hoping to save his life with a ground-breaking vaccine.
Geoffrey Seymour, 41, a procurement specialist, loved playing tennis, basketball and cricket and had always been healthy until just before his 41st birthday when he began experiencing blood in his stool.
Geoffrey was aware of this being a symptom for cancer from adverts on the television, so quickly went to his GP.
Geoffrey, who lives in Richmond, London, with his wife Santa, 44, and their son Marco, 10, was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer, which had spread from his colon to his liver a situation so severe and seemingly hopeless he likened it to being wrapped in a paper bag that is on fire.
He also had a bad reaction to chemotherapy severely blistering the skin on his face and, according to Geoffrey, making him look like Freddy Krueger from the 1984 horror film, Nightmare on Elm Street.
The chemotherapy stopped working however and now, in an attempt to save his life, Geoffrey has travelled to Germany for dendritic cell therapy where a personalised vaccine is created in a lab with the aim of stimulating the immune system.
Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor
Vascular endothelial growth factor is a vascular proliferation and permeability regulator. VEGF is overexpressed in colorectal cancer. The biologic effects of VEGF are mediated by two receptor tyrosine kinases . VEGFR-2 is thought to be the dominant signal transduction pathway regulating angiogenesis. Based on activity in preclinical models leading to tumor regression, VEGF inhibitors have been taken to the clinical arena. RhuMab-VEGF bevacizumab , a selective inhibitor of VEGFR-2, has been evaluated alone or in combination with 5-FU/LV. In a Phase II study, the response rate of 5-FU/LV plus low-dose bevacizumab was 40%, compared to 17% in the chemotherapy alone group. Fever and chills, headaches, hypertension, infection, rash, and nose bleeds were more common in the antibody-treated groups.
SU5416, another inhibitor of VEGFR-2 inhibitor was withdrawn from development after the interim analysis of a Phase I/II study suggested no statistical probability of superiority of IFL plus SU5416 over IFL alone. Other trials with similar drugs are being pursued.
You May Like: How Long After Chemo Finishes Do You Feel Better
How Colon Cancer Is Staged
If youve been diagnosed with colon cancer , one of the first things your doctor will want to determine is the stage of your cancer.
The stage is used to represent the extent of the cancer and how far its spread. Staging colon cancer is essential to determining the best treatment approach.
Colon cancer is typically staged based on the TNM staging system, which was established by the Union for International Cancer Control and later adopted by the American Joint Committee on Cancer.
The system considers the following factors:
- Primary tumor . T refers to how large the original tumor is and whether cancer has grown into the wall of the colon or spread to adjacent organs or structures.
- Regional lymph nodes . N refers to whether cancer cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Distant metastases . M refers to whether cancer has metastasized from the colon to other parts of the body, like the lungs or liver.
In some cases, theres not enough information to assess the tumor or nodes. Instead of including a number , the cancer category will be TX or NX.