Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Doctors diagnose cancer and determine it's origin by looking at a sample of the tumor under a microscope. Then, before deciding on a treatment strategy, physicians must determine if or how much the colon cancer has spread. This is called staging.

In colon cancer, staging reflects how far into the colon the tumor has grown and whether or not it has spread beyond it, either to the lymph nodes or to distant organs. The prognosis or the patient's outlook for recovery, and determining the best treatment options depend upon the stage of the cancer. For early cancer, surgery may be all that is needed. For cancer that is more advanced, chemical or radiation therapy may be needed as well to increase the chance of a cure or delay the cancer's progression.

A PET/CT scan will image the entire body and will show by uptake of the radioactive glucose if the cancer has affected the nearby lymph nodes or other more distant sites. Whether or not distant organs are involved is a critical factor in deciding what the surgical and medical treatment will be. Some studies have shown that even if the cancer is spread in a limited way outside the colon, surgery can be done to remove these other tumors and improve the chance of recovery.

A PET/CT scan can help the physician determine whether surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is the best treatment option.