Chemotherapy for Colon Cancer

Colon cancer surgery can cure many people. However, some patients develop undetectable microscopic tumor cells that eventually can become new tumors. These cells could spread to other parts of your body (metastasize).

Because of this, your team may use adjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy given after primary therapy) to treat these microscopic cells. Chemotherapy is a drug or combination of drugs that kill cancer cells wherever they are in your body. For example, if you have colon cancer that has spread to your lymph nodes, chemotherapy is a standard treatment.

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At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our medical oncologists who specialize in chemotherapy for colorectal cancer can customize an appropriate plan for you. They understand how different drugs work, alone or in combination. The goal is to find the strongest possible treatment while minimizing side effects.

Some standard chemotherapy drugs aren’t effective in colon tumors that have certain mutations. In metastatic cancer, your tissue is analyzed to look for specific genetic mutations in the tumor. Knowing which mutations are there can help your medical oncologist determine which chemotherapy drugs will be most effective and minimize side effects.

Medical oncologist Andrew Epstein

If you have colon cancer that has metastasized to other organs, surgery to remove the tumor may not be the best treatment option. As long as the tumor isn’t causing problems in your bowels, chemotherapy may be a better choice.

Moving straight to chemotherapy has two potential benefits:

  • You may be able to avoid the risk of surgical complications.
  • You can start cancer treatment throughout your entire body without delay.