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Is chemotherapy after bowel cancer surgery required?

If you have bowel cancer surgery you may need additional surgery, chemotherapy or other treatment to help reduce the risk of your cancer returning. Oncologist Dr Sanjay Mukhedkar explains why chemotherapy is often recommended.

Adjuvant chemotherapy

If you do need chemotherapy, your doctor may refer you for adjuvant chemotherapy which works like a vaccine to help prevent the cancer from recurring.

Adjuvant chemotherapy is used when your cancer is considered to be curable.

The treatment lasts for about six months and then youl have a followup appointment every six months for five years after the procedure, plus an annual colonoscopy to check that the cancer has not returned.

St John of God Health Care oncology cancer care

Palliative chemotherapy

If your cancer has spread, palliative chemotherapy is used to control, rather than cure cancer.

Palliative chemotherapy will prolong and increases your quality of life.

Considering your quality of life

Without palliative chemotherapy, in most cases, your prognosis may mean you have about nine to 12 months to live but with palliative chemotherapy your life span can extend to 24 months and beyond.

Chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibodies will not only stretch lifespan, but reduces pain caused by bleeding and obstruction.

What I tell my patients is that the side effects of chemotherapy, which are often transient, are a small price to pay for avoiding debilitating pain and having more time to spend with your loved ones.

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Dr Sanjay Mukhedkar Oncologist

About the Author

Dr Sanjay Mukhedkar is an oncologist at St John of God Murdoch Hospital. Sanjay completed his training in New York, New Zealand and Australia and has special interests in lung cancer and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.