This is the last part in the 3-part series on colorectal cancer. As you may remember, in Part 1, colon cancer was initially suspected when Sandra went into the ER with complaints of rectal bleeding, and in Part 2, we discussed her diagnosis.
Let’s See What Sandra Did Following Her Colonoscopy
After the biopsy results returned from the colonoscopy, the diagnosis of colon cancer was made. She now needed to see a general surgeon who would remove the tumor. The surgeon recommended a laparoscopic approach. This means an incision near the belly button and small additional incisions in the abdomen. This approach has less blood loss and leads to a much faster recovery.
During the laparoscopic procedure, a large section of Sandra’s colon was removed. Luckily, the surgeon was able to attach both parts of the colon back together, known as anastomosis. Best way to understand this is to think of the colon like a sausage – a section is removed, and then the two ends are placed back together. In some cases, patients need to have a bag which empties their stool (colostomy bag) and wait to put the colon back together at a later time. For others, they may have a permanent colostomy bag.
Next the pathologist looked at the section of bowel that was removed and her cancer was “staged.” Staging is a system which clarifies the type of tumor, the extent of invasion into the tissue if any lymph nodes are involved, and if there are any metastases (spread to other organs like liver or brain).
The type of staging used is call TNM Staging – T – tumor, N- nodes (lymph nodes), M-Metastasis. Based on the pathology results, Sandra was diagnosed with Stage III Colon Cancer. Below is a table which describes the Stage and recommended treatment options.
Standard Treatment Options for Stages 0–IV Colon Cancer
Because chemotherapy has been shown to increase survival rates in patients diagnosed with Stage II – IV colon cancer, Sandra underwent 12 cycles of chemotherapy. She had a “port” placed in her chest to make it easier to administer the medications.
For Sandra, this was the worst part of her treatment. She suffered many side effects from the chemotherapy including numbness in her fingers, extreme fatigue and hair loss.
Here is a list of the most common side effects of chemotherapy:
- Hair Loss
- Abdominal Cramps
- Mouth Sores
- Problems with Concentration & Memory
Due to her severe fatigue, Sandra needed to take 6 months off from work. She found someone to fill in for her and concentrated on fighting her cancer. Sandra needed every ounce of energy to stay positive and focused. Fortunately, she also had a great support system which kept her encouraged and motivated while battling this deadly disease.
What happened to Sandra after finishing her chemotherapy? How is she today?
Stay tuned for the answers in my next post…
In health and happiness,