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colonCColon cancer, sometimes called rectal cancer depending on where it begins, is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. The colon and rectum are both a part of the digestive system, which is also called the gastrointestinal (GI) system (see illustration). The digestive system is responsible for breaking down food into smaller units that can then be absorbed by the body and used as energy by the body.

The first part of the digestive system (the stomach and small intestine) processes food for energy while the last part (the colon and rectum) absorbs fluid to form solid waste (fecal matter or stool) that then passes from the body.

Colon cancer and rectal cancer have many features in common, but due to the unique ways each cancer develops and the area of the GI system they develop in, treatment for both cancers can vary significantly.

colon cancer

Diagnosing Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer

Colon cancer can often be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Colon cancer typically first develops in the form of tiny benign cell clumps known as polyps. These polyps form along the sides of the colon and eventually develop into colon cancer. These polyps can often produce no symptoms. That is why regular screenings for colon cancer are recommended.

Once colon cancer has developed, symptoms include:

  • Rectal bleeding or bloody stool
  • Noticeable changes in bowel movements such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Rectal cancer develops as a result of an error in the DNA of the rectal cells. The exact cause of this error is unknown. This error can lead to the creation of cancerous cells and eventually rectal cancer.

Symptoms for rectal cancer include:

  • Dark or bloody stool
  • Mucus in stool
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Noticeable changes in bowel movements such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Improving Treatment of Rectal and Colon Cancer with Hyperthermia

Studies have shown that hyperthermia can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy when the treatments are performed in conjunction with one another. Hyperthermia can improve response to treatment in rectal cancer by 80% (Kakehi et al., 1990). In a clinical trial published by Kakehi et al, 1990, hyperthermia when combined with chemotherapy in the treatment of rectal cancer demonstrated a total response (complete plus partial response) of 100% versus patients who received chemotherapy alone, and achieved a total response of 20% (complete and partial response of 20%).

A 2009 study of 520 patients with advanced rectal carcinoma sought to determine if hyperthermia would benefit those currently undergoing radiotherapy. Some patients were treated with the combination and others were only treated with radiotherapy.

The numbers showed a clear improvement in patients who underwent the combined treatment, and they also showed continued improvement in these patients after a two-year follow-up. Retrospective analysis of the study also found that hyperthermia improved pathologic complete response and caused an increase in the rate of downstaging primary tumors.

Patient Story: Pat

colon cancer testimonial video

In a clinical trial published by Kakehi et al, 1990, hyperthermia when combined with chemotherapy in the treatment of rectal cancer demonstrated a total response (complete plus partial response) of 100% versus patients who received chemotherapy alone, and achieved a total response of 20% (complete and partial response of 20%).

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Hyperthermia Cancer Institute

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