Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in Switzerland. Approximately 4300 persons develop colon cancer each year. The risk of developing colon cancer increases with age, with men being affected slightly more often than women. If diagnosed at an early stage, the disease is curable in most cases. In a high percentage of cases, this is achieved by way of a minimally invasive surgical procedure ("keyhole technique").
During the early and therefore curable stage, colon cancer hardly causes any symptoms. Therefore, colonoscopy is highly rated and is recommended for men and women as from the age of 50. In Switzerland, the health insurance companies cover the costs of screening examinations for persons aged between 50 and 69. During the advanced stages of bowel cancer, the following symptoms may occur: Changes in stool behaviour, blood in the stool (often not visible in very small amounts), abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and anaemia. Large-sized tumours can also lead to intestinal obstruction (emergency).
If a lump is discovered during a colonoscopy, a tissue sample is taken for microscopic examination (biopsy) during the same session. When malignant cells are detected, the next step is to determine the extent of the disease, i.e., the tumour stage. In addition to the size and location of the tumour, the presence of metastases in lymph nodes and other organs (in particular, liver and lungs) is of particular interest. In most cases, computer tomography is used for this. Based on all this information, the individual therapy plan is subsequently created. At the Bowel Cancer Centre, this occurs at our interdisciplinary tumour board, which meets on a weekly basis. This is where specialists from the various fields (gastroenterology, surgery, radiology, pathology, oncology, radiotherapy) meet and discuss the planning of treatment per patient, according to the guidelines of the German Cancer Society (DKG).
In the case of advanced, metastasised tumours, the therapy is determined according to the infestation pattern. In many cases, a curative (with curative intent) therapy concept can still be chosen despite distant metastases (offshoots, e.g., in the liver or lungs). The therapy usually consists of chemotherapy, as well as surgery of the primary tumour (bowel surgery) and of the metastases (liver or lung surgery). In non-operable cases, only palliative therapy (mostly in the form of chemotherapy and / or radiation) is available.