Colorectal Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

16. Are there any treatments that follow surgery?

Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the operation, many patients receive chemotherapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Chemotherapy treatment after surgery -- to increase the chances of a cure -- is called adjuvant therapy.

Researchers have found that patients who received adjuvant therapy usually survived longer and went for longer periods of time without a recurrence of colon cancer than patients treated with surgery alone.

Patients age 70 and older benefited from adjuvant treatment as much as their younger counterparts. In fact, adjuvant therapy is equally as effective -- and no more toxic -- for patients 70 and older as it is for younger patients, provided the older patients have no other serious diseases.

Adjuvant chemotherapy is standard treatment for patients whose cancer is operable and who are at high risk for a recurrence of the disease. Most cases of colon cancer occur in individuals age 65 and over. But studies have shown that older patients receive adjuvant chemotherapy less frequently than younger patients.