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HealthCentral: Colon Cancer Treatment Options

HealthCentral recently interviewed Samuel Klempner, MD, a gastrointestinal oncologist at The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, a Cedars-Sinai affiliate, and assistant professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai, about colon cancer treatment options.

As Klempner told HealthCentral, treatment for colon cancer usually starts with surgery.

“If a patient has non-metastatic disease—meaning there’s no evidence of disease beyond the colon—the primary treatment is surgery,” Klempner said. “Anything we do after surgery is dictated by what we see when we examine the tumor specimen under the microscope.”

Klempner also suggests that for very early stage cancer that is localized to the surface of the colon, surgery alone is generally sufficient. However, for some patients, there’s a risk the cancer will recur, especially if tumor cells have spread deeper into the colon wall or to nearby lymph nodes. An oncologist assesses a patient's risk for recurrence based on the pathology of the tumor cells and results of imaging tests.

About 20 to 25 percent of patients are diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer (Stage IV). For them, the disease is not curable and surgery is not an option. However, oncologists do have therapies to offer.

Treatment options for metastatic colon cancer fall on a continuum, Klempner told HealthCentral. “Our intention is to expose patients to everything in our toolbox. If that’s done appropriately, it will give patients a chance at a longer survival.”

As oncologists learn more about colon cancer tumors, it helps them make nuanced decisions about treatment, Klempner said. “In general, Stage IV patients receive chemotherapy and a biologic agent, either a non-chemotherapy drug that targets blood vessel formation, or an antibody that targets a surface protein called EGFR.”

And for those newly diagnosed, Klempner tells Health Central readers to try to educate yourself about your disease.

“Knowledge is a very powerful tool," Klempner told HealthCentral. "Obtain more than one opinion and be an advocate for yourself. Know your own body. If something doesn’t seem right during treatment, talk to your health care provider.”

Click here to read the complete article on HealthCentral. 

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Colon Cancer Patient Lori Wants You to Learn from Her