With the exception of various forms of skin cancer, colorectal cancer has been found to be the third most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in both men and women. “Colorectal” refers to colon cancer and rectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 90,000 new cases of colon cancer and over 39,000 new cases of rectal cancer in the U.S. in 2016.
Deaths Due to Colorectal Cancer
Not only is colorectal cancer the third most commonly diagnosed cancer (excluding skin cancer), it is also the third leading cause of death amongst all cancer-related deaths when men and women are evaluated separately. When men and women are combined, it is viewed as the second leading cause of death amongst all cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Some estimates posit that colorectal cancer will cause over 49,000 deaths in 2016.
Living Life With Colorectal Cancer
Being diagnosed with any form of serious cancer is both scary and life-altering, and colorectal cancer is no exception. After being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you will experience a broad spectrum of different emotions. Feeling frightened, anxious and depressed are all natural, human reactions to this type of serious diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, an essential step is to take take life one day at a time and to rely on the support of your family and your friends. Informing others of your diagnosis or, sharing how you are feeling is incredibly difficult, but reaching out is worth considering.
There is no right or wrong way to tell people about your diagnosis, in fact there are a variety of different ways to do so. You may decide to tell just your inner circle, or you may decide to inform your entire community. The important thing to remember is that the decision is yours.
Maintaining A More Normal Routine
Maintaining the exact same lifestyle that an individual had before a diagnosis will be difficult. However, maintaining certain aspects of daily life can actually serve as an effective coping mechanism. When colorectal patients are not facing difficult symptoms such as fatigue or a variety of other side effects, participating common activities will help patients maintain more of a semblance of normalcy. Patients may still elect to go shopping, attend a movie or run other errands that they are accustomed to. Another useful suggestion is for colorectal patients to participate in a cancer support group if one is accessible to them in their area.
Cancer Can Affect All Aspects Of Daily Life
Unfortunately, cancer can creep into many aspects of daily life. This can include relationships with a spouse, children, and employers. This is to be expected because in all likelihood, all parties involved may be inexperienced with cancer. When colorectal cancer patients notice that they are being treated differently, it may have some emotional and/or psychological effects. As previously stated, it is normal and natural for cancer patients to feel depressed or overwhelmed by their current situation.
However, if difficult emotional feelings begin to strain or interfere with daily life, it may be a wise decision to consider working with a professional counselor. Some patients also decide to keep a personal journal as a way to manage their feelings in a constructive manner.
Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Although every case is different, colorectal cancer is commonly treated using chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of the two. These are serious treatments and do carry serious side effects. Notorious symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss can occur and oftentimes will. Patients manage these symptoms differently. Naturally, some women feel devastated at the idea of losing their hair in its entirety however, there are effective resources such as personally customized wigs and makeup that can make patients feel more comfortable with their day-to-day appearance.
In some cases a side effect commonly referred to as “chemo brain” can occur. This is a concerning but temporary condition which can result in short term memory loss. Patients should remember that although these treatments are daunting, that they will be able to learn and to better adjust as time goes on.
Interacting With Your Oncology Team
Colorectal patients (like any other cancer patient) will naturally develop a close relationship to their oncology team. This can be beneficial for the patient who will find that their oncology team can be a useful resource, They are also an encouraging, supportive community. Open communication is a key component in this relationship and patients should always communicate their symptoms to their doctor so that they can receive more effective care,
Deciding If Treatment Has Run It’s Course
Although it can be tough to imagine, there may come a time when a patient begins to weigh their options regarding continuing treatment. Each round of treatment takes a severe toll on a colorectal cancer patient’s body and mind. If a patient has tried numerous treatments which are ultimately unsuccessful, it may be a good time to change their treatment goals to focus on increasing comfort and quality of life. In the midst of pain, nausea and emotional discouragement, this decision can only be made by the patient upon speaking with their attending physician.
The First Treatment Is The Most Effective
Research will show that generally, the first treatment of a tumor is the most effective. The goal of the treatment is to destroy all cancer cells to prevent them from returning. However, if tumor growth continues after several treatments, there is a lower chance that more treatment will help. This general rule holds more true for solid-tumor cancers, such as colon cancers. It is essential that colorectal cancer patients discuss the benefits of treatment over time with their physician.
When Is A Reasonable Time To Cease Cancer Treatment?
This question can only be answered by the patient and their physician after collaborative discussion. However, if their cancer has continued to grow or spread despite exhausting different treatment options, then it is possible that additional treatment will not help a patient to feel better or to live longer. In fact, pursuing more treatment may cause serious side effects that severely decrease a patient’s quality of life and in some cases, could even shorten life.
Although it may be a difficult decision to make, focusing on enhancing comfort and quality of life may allow patient to live a more good days during their remaining time.
Hospice Care And Quality of Life
Hospice care is a specialized form of palliative care that focuses on enhancing a patient’s overall quality of life through effective symptom management. Hospice care for colon and rectal cancer patients and palliative care for colon cancer patients extend beyond physical symptom management and also helps patients to better manage their mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Hospice care is a pseciliazed form care and is not curative treatment, but it can improve how good a patient feels while also supporting their family. This allows patients and families to make the most out of the precious time they have remaining together.
To learn more about how hospice can help you or a loved one during this difficult time, contact Harbor Light Hospice by phone or contact us online today.