Technically, cancer of the colon is cancer of the tissues of the colon, which is located below the large intestine. It is among the most prevalent cancers today, and following closely is rectal cancer, which is the growth of cancer cells in the rectum.
People who have colon cancer are most likely candidates for surgery, which is frequently the first option for the treatment of this type of cancer. Others treatments include radiation and chemotherapy, two procedures utilized to help minimize manage the spread of the cancer cells.
However, when surgery, chemo, and radiation can no longer control the spread of cancer, your family – or perhaps you as the cancer patient – may opt to receive palliative care.
Colon Cancer and Palliative Care
Palliative care is a type of care that revolves around managing the patient’s stress and the current symptoms that he is experiencing everyday. It is often referred to as supportive care or symptom management. Nevertheless, no matter how it is called, palliative care is an integral part of caring for the colon cancer patient.
One must keep in mind, though, that palliative care management does not in any way cure cancer itself. It only attempts to make the patient as comfortable as he can be in tackling his end-stage disease.
Improving the patients’ quality of life is the ultimate goal of palliative care treatment. It does require the family to coordinate with the medical team, which consists of the patient’s primary doctor, oncologist, and nurses. It would be easier for the oncologist to deal with the patient when the family is with them throughout the treatment.
How Palliative Care Can Help the Colon Cancer Patient
When a patient undergoes surgery, he may experience pain and tenderness on the surgical wound. Other treatments may also cause bowel impaction and blocks at the large intestine region. These are some cases where the patient is recommended to undergo ostomy, a procedure that involves creating a hole in the skin so that bowel is eliminated through there.
Radiation therapy can be quite distressing for the patient. Some of its side effects include the change in skin color, which can be embarrassing for the patient, causing him to feel insecure and depressed. He may also experience fatigue, loose bowels, stomachaches, and reproductive issues. The palliative care team can tremendously help patients ease their symptoms and provide comfort where needed.
Chemotherapy, on the other hand, can cause hair loss, vomiting, mouth sores and nerve damage. Most of these side effects are countered by medications, but the palliative care team is required to provide stress management strategies. It is also responsible for communicating with the team of doctors handling the patient.
There are other additional symptoms that are associated with colon cancer, most of which take a toll on the patients’ self-image and confidence levels. Through all this, the palliative care team can tremendously help in controlling symptoms, managing the patient’s quality of life, and preventing and resolving other physical, mental and emotional issues. They can even assist in finding a therapist near the area that can help the patient cope with his daily challenges.
If you or someone you love is suffering from end-stage colon cancer, consult your doctor about having palliative care in guiding you as you make small and big decisions, and making it easy for you to communicate with your team of doctors. Palliative care is not the last option. It is the earliest – and probably the best – option you can take.