Colorectal cancer develops in the rectum or colon, hence its name. Rectal and colon cancer are often linked, as they have many common characteristics. There is a consensus that all rectal and colon cancers begin with benign polyps. These pre-malignant tumors occur in the walls of the intestine and may grow in size and become cancerous over time. The removal of non-cancerous polyps is one of the best preventive treatments. However, if these tumors are discovered too late, the patient may have to find other colorectal cancer medications instead.
Chemotherapy is a therapy used in curing cancer. It consists of using various drugs to remove cancer cells and eliminate or reduce the disease entirely. The medications used are called anti-neoplastic or chemotherapy drugs. These usually have side effects because they act on both malignant and healthy cells.
Malignant tumors are characterized by their altered cells modifying the usual mechanism of division, leading to its uncontrolled division and its ability to invade and affect distant and neighboring organs.
Chemotherapy treatment is devised to eliminate the cells while they are in the process of division; the higher the division speed of the cells, the more sensitive they will be to the treatment. Chemotherapy treatment is usually initiated after surgery as a complementary treatment to prevent metastasis.
Colorectal Cancer Medications
• 5-FU (5-fluorouracil).
• Capecitabine (Xeloda); an orally administered pill. Once it is in the body, this medication shifts to 5-FU.
• Irinotecan (Camptosar).
• Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin).
• Trifluridine and tipiracil (Lonsurf); a couple of medicines combined in a pill.
In some cases, two or more of these medications are given together to achieve a more effective response. Sometimes, colorectal cancer medications are prescribed with a targeted therapy medication.
Chemotherapy works against cancer cells because the drugs detect cells that are dividing rapidly. However, other cells like the bone marrow (origin of new blood cells), the lining of intestines and mouth, and hair follicles also divide fast. Chemotherapy can also affect these cells, and cause side effects. These side effects depend on the variants and dosage of the medications given and how long the drug has been used. Some chemotherapy side effects include:
• Hair loss
• Ulcers in the mouth
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea and vomiting
• Increase in the probability of infection (because there are very few white blood cells)
• Ease of bruising or bleeding (because there are few platelets)
• Tiredness (due to a decrease in red blood cells)
Most of the effects disappear with time after the completion of the treatment. Some effects, like the numbness of the feet and hand caused by oxaliplatin, can last for a more extended period. However, there are ways to minimize these effects. For example, you may be given medication to prevent or reduce vomiting and nausea.
Be sure to ask your cancer specialist all the questions you have about the side effects. Notify your cancer specialist once you experience any side effects or changes while you are undergoing chemotherapy so that these effects can be treated promptly. Sometimes, colorectal cancer medications may require adjustment of dosage or duration in order to prevent such problems from getting worse.
Featured Image: depositphotos/Syda_ProductionsPosted on May 5, 2023