Colon cancer treatment in Austria
- 28 June
- Diagnosis & Treatment
Colon cancer treatment in Austria is considered one of the most effective and technically advanced in Europe.
Colon cancer is the second most common malignant tumor in Austria.
Due to early diagnosis and innovative methods of therapy, this disease is very well treatable today.
In the treatment of colon cancer, it is very important to know the nature and activity of the tumor cells.
This requires the identification of specific proteins in the tumor cell (biomarkers).
Laboratory analysis of colon cancer cells is widely used by Austrian doctors to choose the optimal treatment strategy and predict the outcome. Biomarkers can also provide information about whether the applied drug (chemotherapy) has the desired effect.
In Austria, 40,000 people suffer from colon cancer, and 5,700 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Research studies in colon cancer treatment have been very successful in recent years. They expanded treatment options in all directions. In particular, innovative surgical techniques have reduced the time spent in the hospital, as well as the overall recovery phase.
However, the fear of colostomy remains one of the strongest emotional factors. With malignant tumors affecting the rectum, many patients are afraid of colostomy.
However, Austrian surgical statistics show that sphincter muscle can be saved in 9 out of 10 cases using modern preoperative radiotherapy and chemotherapy. For comparison, in the 1980s, only 2 out of 10 patients with this diagnosis could avoid a stoma.
Despite screening, in a quarter of patients the tumor is detected at a late stage. But even at stage IV, that is, with existing metastases, innovative biological therapy with antibodies can reduce tumors with subsequent surgical removal. With aggressive therapy, such patients can live for years, so colorectal cancer is not a death sentence, as many believe.
Symptoms of colon cancerColon cancer does not cause any symptoms for a long time.
In addition, potential signs of colorectal cancer, such as intestinal cramps, unexplained weight loss, or a change in stool, are often not taken seriously by patients. Moreover, some women rejoice in the sudden loss of weight without effort – but this symptom hides a serious illness.
In colon cancer, complaints usually appear only at a late stage:
• Intestinal cramps
• Unintended weight loss
• Weakness and anemia
• Blood in feces (fecal occult blood)
• The alternation between diarrhea and constipation.
If you notice similar symptoms that do not go away for a long time, consult a doctor.
Consultation of a qualified oncologist in Austria costs $ 500-1000.
What is the survival rate for colon cancer in Austria?The chances of recovery are higher, the earlier the tumor is detected and removed.
If the disease recurs after the first successful treatment, in 80% of cases it occurs within the first two years after surgical intervention. After five years, relapses are very rare.
The ability to remove a tumor is determined by its size and the involvement of neighboring tissues. Neighboring organs such as the bladder, prostate gland, uterus, vagina and bones may be infiltrated. Metastases can occur in the regional lymph nodes, as well as in the liver or lungs.
Mortality during a planned operation in Austrian clinics is less than 3%.
"Residual classification" (R-classification) indicates the complete removal of the tumor. This is the result of the operation after an accurate examination of the tissue removed under a microscope.
R-0 means complete removal; R-1 means the presence of microscopic tumor fragments, and R-2 means that there are parts of the tumor in the patient’s body visible to the naked eye. RX means that it is impossible to assess with certainty whether cancer cells remain.
If complete surgical removal is successful, the five-year survival rate is distributed as follows:
• Colon cancer: R-1 90%, R-2 80%, R-3 60%
• Rectal cancer: R-1 90%, R-2 70%, R-3 40%.
Thus, the survival rate depend on the complete removal of the tumor.
Best colon cancer centers in AustriaIn Austria, there are about a dozen major centers where modern methods for the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer are available. Most of them are located in the capital of Austria.
Here are some well-known hospitals and clinics where foreign patients can turn for advice:
• Vienna General Hospital (AKH)
• Department of Visceral Surgery at the University Hospital Salzburg
• Colorectal Cancer Center at the Sisters of Mercy Hospital Vienna
• St. Joseph's Hospital in Vienna
• Döbling Private Clinic
Diagnosis of colorectal cancer in AustriaIn colon cancer, early diagnosis plays a key role, as the disease develops over several years.
Depending on which parts of the intestine are affected, how early the tumor is detected and whether it has spread to other organs, subsequent measures determine the chances of recovery.
According to Austrian oncologists, 90% of all cases of colon cancer can be cured if the disease is detected early. Regular screening is crucial. Unlike many other screening tests, in the case of colon cancer, there is a real chance to prevent the disease by removing colon polyps before their malignant transformation.
The risk increases after 50. Therefore, the first screening should be carried out at this age.
From the age of 50, insured citizens in Austria have the right to be examined annually in cases of familial susceptibility to colorectal cancer. For this, a test for occult blood in the feces (Hämoccult test), physical examination and colonoscopy are recommended.
The test for occult blood in the feces determines traces of blood that may indicate a tumor. This analysis should be carried out annually. However, if the existing malignant tumor does not bleed, the test may be false negative.
Physical examination (palpation) can only detect tumors that can be reached with a finger.
Therefore, the safest method is to study the entire colon with colonoscopy. When viewed with a flexible endoscope, polyps are removed with a small loop, which reduces the risk of cancer.
During a colonoscopy, the doctor takes samples of suspicious tissue that are examined microscopically. If the result is negative, the colonoscopy should be repeated after 2-5 years.
Comprehensive diagnosis of colorectal cancer in Austria costs $ 2,000-4,000.
Colon cancer treatment in Austria: methods and prices
Surgical resectionThe preferred method of treatment is complete surgical resection. The standard procedure is to remove the affected area of the colon and regional lymph nodes.
In 30% of patients, surgery at the time of diagnosis does not make sense. Many of them first need to reduce the size of the tumor using chemotherapy or other methods.
The choice of a particular technique depends on the size and location of the tumor. There are so-called right hemicolectomy in the localization of the primary tumor in the right part of the colon and left hemicolectomy. During this procedure, surgeons remove half of the affected colon.
The cost of hemicolectomy in Austria is about $ 20,000-28,000.
To protect the newly connected ends of the colon, it may be necessary to create a stoma for emptying the bowel. The remaining part of the colon is sutured to the abdominal wall.
If the tumor is located deep in the rectum or in the anus, it should be removed with the subsequent formation of a permanent stoma. Austrian surgeons claim that this occurs in approximately 15% of cases of rectal tumors.
The thought of life with a stoma is very stressful for many patients, but the modern technique is so good that most people quickly get used to their new anatomical features and live a full life.
In centers with extensive surgical experience, the results of laparoscopic operations on the colon are comparable in terms of complications and survival with the results of open surgery. The advantages of laparoscopic bowel resection with minimal incisions are faster normalization of bowel function, less pain, a shorter inpatient stay and faster rehabilitation.
The role of chemotherapy and radiation therapyAs we said, in some cases, surgical treatment is not enough. Chemotherapy with cytostatics and radiation therapy reduces the size of the tumor for subsequent resection and increases the survival of patients with colon cancer.
Because treatments sometimes have significant side effects and can be stressful, the potential benefits and risks must be carefully weighed before starting therapy. The choice of the optimal strategy depends on the clinical features of a particular case.
There are teams of cancer experts, surgeons and radiologists who coordinate the treatment of each patient in Austria’s cancer centers. In making a decision, the stage of the disease, the patient's age and condition play an important role.
At stage I (Duke`s A), the tumor is bounded by the intestinal wall, therefore adjuvant therapy is not necessary. At stage II (Duke`s B) chemotherapy is needed only if there are additional risk factors.
At Duke's C histological examination of the removed tissue samples reveals the spread of cancer cells to the lymph nodes. In this case, adjuvant chemotherapy significantly increases survival.
Radiation therapy is often used for colorectal cancer. Before surgery, radiotherapy can reduce the size of the tumor (neoadjuvant therapy) to successfully remove it and even avoid a colostomy.
After surgery, radiation therapy for several weeks, possibly in combination with chemotherapy, prevents the re-growth of cancer cells. But due to stronger side effects and worse long-term results, chemoradiation therapy is used by Austrian doctors before surgery.
Recent advances have made it possible to cure patients with metastases in the liver or lungs.
After neoadjuvant chemotherapy with antibodies, in almost 50% of cases, liver metastases can be removed. Due to the large regenerative capacity of the liver, these patients have an excellent quality of life after surgery.
If a tumor cannot be completely removed or inoperable metastases have occurred in the lungs or liver, complete cure is usually no longer possible. However, surgery and chemoradiotherapy help control cancer and relieve symptoms for a long time.
Many Austrian patients live on palliative care for years, remaining socially active.
Targeted therapy using monoclonal antibodiesBiological treatments using artificially produced monoclonal antibodies have been successfully used in colorectal cancer in recent years.
In particular, antibodies attach to cancer cells or their protein products, making them visible and vulnerable to the patient's immune system (immunotherapy).
Currently, Austrian oncologists use antibodies cetuximab and panitumumab, usually in combination with chemotherapeutic agents. Several more antibodies are being developed for targeted therapy.
Doctors hope to get even safer and more effective options in the future.
Colon cancer treatment in Austria gives hope to patients with later stages of the disease, and the results of therapy are improving every year. The sooner you get an expert opinion, the greater the chance of a favorable outcome.
© Analytical reviews and oncology news by K. Mokanov: clinical pharmacist and professional medical translator