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Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2007

Can anyone tell me their experience with radiation treatments. My father has been recently diagnosed with Stage 3A colon cancer. He already had his colon resection and now they will start radiation and chemo treatments. I am confused about the radiation as I thought it was used prior to surgery to shink the cancerous tumor before removal. Can someone enlighten me please. I know that everyone's treatment differs, I'm just looking for some answers and maybe some advice as to what to expect from the radiation.
A concerned daughter

JoyceCanada's picture
Posts: 134
Joined: Mar 2006

I had a Lower sigmoid resection in January 2006. I was given the diagnosis of Rectal Cancer stage III (2 nodes involved). I was treated as follows:

2 rounds of Folfox
28 continuous rounds of radiation with 5FU five days on with week-ends off
6 rounds of Folfox.

I was told that this was "adjuvant" therapy for rectal cancer and I was given this because my cancer was low in the sigmoid.

It was explained to me that radiation was included in my regime because of the site of my cancer being low - close proximity to other organs and possible recurrence.

Radiation is given to "shrink" tumours -but in my case my tumour was a "sneaky pete" and up to the time of resection it was thought to be a benign polyp.

If you have any questions I would be pleased to try and answer them.

Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2007

Thanks for replying to my post. I am positive that my father's cancer is in the same location as yours. The sigmoid part of his colon, he had 2 positive nodes out of 14. I have researched a little further about the radiation and now have a more clear idea of why the use it after surgery. This is all so surreal to me right now. Thanks for your help.
How is your progress? Are you NED?
Also, how was the radiation for you? (Side Effects)
Best Wishes to you!

PGLGreg's picture
Posts: 741
Joined: Jul 2006

I also had radiation and chemo after my resection, not before. Sometimes radiation before surgery is needed to make surgery feasible, but other than that, I don't how that decision is made. Radiation combined with chemo as adjuvant therapy can be more effective at preventing recurrence than either alone, I understand. I had stage 2 rectal cancer and radiation + chemo in Jan-Feb 2006 -- no sign of recurrence so far.


Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2007

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with me. I am trying to learn and take in as much info as possible so I can be as helpful as possible to my parents at this tumultuous time. I'm glad to hear that you are showing no sign of cancer.
Take Care

Posts: 137
Joined: Mar 2004

I had stage 3, and in my case the radiation followed my surgery. The Docs felt that it was more important to get the tumor out first since my pain and bleeding were pretty bad. Nearly everyone has some unpleasant reactions to the radiation, be it extreme 'sunburn' to the area, dry mouth, fatigue, etc. I was 53 yo at the time, and was already finished with having children, etc. I say this because at the time of my treatment, when everything was a whirlwind of confusing things happening in my life, it never occured to me, and I was never told by any of the Docs that the radiation would render me sterile. Had it been important to me perhaps have more children, I would have lost that ability, and got pretty angry that I was never told. One of the Docs later told me when I asked that they believed that because of my age it didn't matter. So, if it might be important to have more kids he ought to have some sperm stored away.

Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2007

That is so horrible that they did not tell you the full effects of the radiation. They have no right to just assume you were done fathering children! Well my father is 57 and we are all grown, so I'm sure that he and my mother are done having children. So that should not be a concern for him. I am so worried about all of the treatments....rad/chemo. When he went in for the resection his surgeon assured him that he would not need any chemo. So when pathology came back with the news of nodes being involved we felt like we had been slammed in the face all over again. This is all so much to take in and deal with. That's why I am trying to educate myself so I can help my parents make the right decision regarding my father's care. How is your progress?

JoyceCanada's picture
Posts: 134
Joined: Mar 2006

I had to sign a consent form stating that I was aware that radiation could "make me sterile, throw me into menopause, and could affect my sex life" I laughed because I was 59 when I was diagnosed.
I will not lie to you, radiation for me was not a piece of cake. I had horrible diarrhea and my butt was raw. I had a great radiologist and he watched me very closely and at one point refused to continue unless I had a break because I was so sick.
The good news is that I just underwent my 2nd colonoscopy post radiation and the surgeon who performed the colonoscopy mentioned that my colon was "clear and looked as though there was no residual radiation damage".

Post Chemo I still suffer neuropathy in my feet but that is getting better.

I wish your Dad all the best and tell him not to be a "hero". There are drugs available that make this journey tolerable.

Joyce a.k.a. NED :-)

Posts: 94
Joined: Jun 2007

My husband had radiation and chemo before sugery and chemo after surgery for stage 3 rectal cancer. Diagnosed 2 years ago. He's doing great pet scans every 3 weeks are clear except for rectal area which Dr's say is ulcerated colitis from radiation he has had 4 biopsies all negative. Has anyone experiencd this?

vinny3's picture
Posts: 933
Joined: Jun 2006

I had rectal cancer and had radiation prior to surgery in an attempt to have a lesser surgery. Had a recurrance so had to have the larger surgery anyway. The main side effects of the radiation are fatigue and burning around the bottom. For me, they didn't start however for about two weeks after starting radiation but then lasted for several weeks after. If you haven't done so already, I recommend going to the website of the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) where you will find alot of information about the diagnosis and treatment of different types of cancer.


Posts: 266
Joined: Jun 2007

hi hop3full,
I had stage 3 rectal cancer, surgery and then radiation/chemo for 6 weeks to kill any microscopic cancer cells still present. I am now going through chemo only. Radiation was rough for me because I let myself get dehydrated and since it was to the pelvic area messed with my digestion. So tell Dad to drink plenty of water and let the radiologist know at the first sign of discomfort. Good Luck, Robin

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

I had radiation after surgery (rectal cancer). It was OK -- I did have some side effects. (a) fatigue -- like Dick, this started about 2 weeks after radiation began, but then lasted about 2 weeks after it ended (b) diarrhea. This got pretty acute. (c) burn/rawness around the area. This made pooping quite painful. Talk with the doctors/nurses about ways to treat this. I did sitz baths and used some cream -- but it was a cream they gave me, because some can interfere with the radiation. In spite of all this, it wasn't too bad -- and it ended! Oh, the radiation also zapped my ovaries, throwing me into early menopause. Luckily, I already had two kids and was not planning to have any more. Best of luck to you, your father, and the family.

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