Medical oncology

author/s: Dr Joan Carles i Galceran


What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer is a tumour located in the large intestine that requires a multidisciplinary approach involving the collaboration of gastroenterologists, pathologists, radiologists, geneticists, surgeons, medical oncologists and radiotherapist oncologists.


What is tumour staging?

Tumour staging consists in the prognostic classification of a neoplastic disorder. Staging is required in all tumours and depending on the prognosis of the disease, a series of either surgical, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments are then decided upon.


What is the best treatment for colon cancer?

Without a doubt, and whenever possible, radical oncological surgery is the best option.


When do we need to apply chemotherapy and what does it consist of?

The treatment of chemotherapy consists in the administration of a series of drugs endovenously (see animation) or per mouth (see animation). These drugs have a series of unwanted side effects that must always be discussed with the doctor in charge of your treatment.

The types of chemotherapy will depend on the stage the disease is in. It is possible that chemotherapy may not be required after the surgery. We should not forget that treatment will depend on the age, prognosis of life expectancy of the affected individual and his or her general state of health.


What types of chemotherapy are there?

Basically, there are two types:

    1. The first type of chemotherapy is called complementary or adjuvant. Adjuvant therapy is administered after a surgical approach and is known as preventive. It is normally administered for six months.

    2. The second type is chemotherapy that is administered when the disease is in an advanced stage, benefiting the patient both in quality of life as well as in survival. In special situations, the patients can be treated with chemotherapy and if they respond, then surgery may be considered as an option for the metastasis.


Why is there hair loss?

There will be hair loss depending on what drugs are used as therapy. Your doctor will discuss this with you depending on the combinations of drugs used.


What are ambulatory infusion pumps?

Ambulatory infusion pumps are machines or pressure devices that administer a drug slowly over the course of several hours and that allow the patient to lead a normal life. These pumps require a subcutaneous placement that permits to connect a catheter in order to reach the blood supply (they are known as port-a-cath). See animation.


If I experience hair loss, how long will it take to come out again?

It normally takes between 2 to 3 months, as the hair is lost from the root.


Can I sunbathe at the beach?

Normally, it is not allowed, as the drugs used cause drug-induced photosensitivity.


What side effects are associated with the medication?

The best thing to do is to discuss this with your doctor, as it will all depend on the drugs that are used. You should know that four main cytostatics are used in the treatment of this disease and that nowadays, these drugs also contain antibodies aimed against tumoral drugs, as well as antiangiogenics.


Must I drink a lot of water during the treatment?

Yes, as it helps you in the diffusion of the drugs in your body tissues, as well as in their elimination as they have a renal or hepatic metabolism.


Is there anything I should know about regarding vitamins or type of diet during the periods of chemotherapy?

Yes, you should discuss this with your doctor, as new information comes out on a daily basis.