Your colorectal cancer treatment depends on your overall health, extent of the disease and your tolerance for various therapies. The sequence and combination of treatment will depend on the site and stage of your cancer.
The primary treatment for colorectal cancer is often surgical removal (called resection) of the cancerous portion and surrounding lymph nodes, along with a length of normal tissue on either side of the cancer. Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital have specialized surgical oncologists who have expertise in metastatic colorectal cancer surgery including resection and ablation of the liver. Many of these surgeries can be done using a minimally invasive approach.
Your radiation oncologist will discuss with you the best options for your diagnosis. These may include:
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) - high-precision radiotherapy that uses computer-controlled linear accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a malignant tumor.
- Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SBRT) - the delivery of a single high dose radiation treatment or a few fractionated radiation treatments to a malignant tumor.
- Proton therapy — one of the most precise forms of radiation therapy, proton treatment can be precisely controlled so most of the radiation ends up directly in the tumor, reducing the risk of damage to surrounding healthy tissues and causing fewer short- and long-term side effects. It has been effective in treating certain types of colorectal cancer. Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center* is the first and only health system in Illinois and the ninth in the country to offer proton therapy.
Drugs are administered, either intravenously or orally, to interfere with the cancer cell’s ability to reproduce. Your experienced medical oncologist will determine the best combination of medications for your stage of cancer. Studies have shown that chemotherapy after surgery can increase the survival rate for patients with some stages of colorectal cancer. Chemotherapy can also help relieve symptoms of advanced cancer.
- Y-90 - A specialized interventional radiologist may use intra-arterial yttrium-90 radioembolization (commonly called Y-90) to radiate a liver tumor. Y-90 uses radioactive isotopes to deliver radiation directly to a tumor. This method may be used if your colorectal cancer has spread to the liver.
- Chemoembolization - A specially trained interventional radiologist can perform a procedure in which anticancer drugs are administered directly into a tumor through its feeding blood supply, which allows for a higher concentration of the drug to be in contact with the tumor for a longer period of time.
- Ablation therapies – Ablation is a type of treatment which destroy tumors without removing them. This techniques may be used for patients when surgery is not a good option because of poor health or reduced liver function. Often, ablation can be done without surgery by inserting a needle or probe into the tumor through the skin.
Side effects from cancer treatment can impact your quality of life and your body’s ability to respond to treatment. Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center Warrenville and the Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center Delnor is home to a diverse team of palliative medicine specialists who work with your oncologist to help relieve your pain and manage your symptoms. The palliative medicine specialists:
- Treat pain and other physical symptoms of cancer, such as fatigue, nausea, trouble sleeping, poor appetite, breathing difficulties, and weight loss
- Treat emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety
- Improve your body’s ability to tolerate cancer treatments
- Help you better understand tests, procedures, and options
- Guide you and those who care for you to helpful outside resources
From your initial diagnosis throughout your care, the palliative medicine team can help you remain stronger in your fight against cancer and feel better, every step of the way.
You can participate in clinical trials, which focus on prevention and treatment options for colorectal cancer.
Certain kinds of cancer run in families. If you or your family members have had cancer before age 50 or two or more incidences of different types of cancer, or if you have had several family members diagnosed with cancer, you may want to consider genetic services.
If you have family members who have had colorectal cancer, learn more about Lynch syndrome testing .
*The Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center (Center) is a joint venture between Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and Radiation Oncology Consultants, Ltd. Both organizations are dedicated to providing proton therapy in Illinois. The physicians that practice at the Center are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare or any of its affiliates. They have chosen this facility as the place they wish to care for and treat their private patients.