According to cancer.org, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the United States.
But patients have a promising future, thanks to new advancements in diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer.
So, what can we expect in the field of colon cancer treatment? Let’s see.
There’s been a drop in the death rate of colon cancer over the decades. This is attributed to early detection, as well as advancements in colon cancer treatments.
Late-stage metastatic colon cancer is hard to treat.
People who are diagnosed with stage 4 cancer have a five-year survival rate of just 14 percent. This means that out of 100 patients with stage 4 colon cancer, only 14 may stay alive after five years.
On the contrary, patients with stage 1 cancer have a 90 percent chance of five-year survival.
Presently, many tests can help your doctor to detect early symptoms of colon cancer or even a predisposition to having it.
Routine screenings, such as colonoscopies are vital in the detection of early-stage colon cancer. You must get your first colon cancer at age 50. Thereafter, you get it once every ten years.
But if your family has a history of colon cancer or a high risk of it, your doctor may advise that your screen from a younger age.
Colon cancer screenings are very important. Your doctor will be able to see what’s inside your colon.
For instance, if he sees abnormal growths or polyps, they can take it out and then put you under close observation to ensure that there are no cancer growths.
If you already have cancerous tissue growing, then there’s a high chance of stopping its spread before it becomes metastatic.
Apart from the colonoscopy, you may also have to do other tests, like:
- A fecal occult blood test
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Virtual colonoscopy
- Fecal immunochemical test
Studies have shown that between 5 – 10 percent of colorectal cancer cases are due to genetic mutations transferred from parents to their children.
However, with DNA testing, doctors can determine whether you have a high for developing colorectal cancer.
A DNA test would involve taking a tissue sample from your blood or a polyp, or a tumor if you’ve already been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
Minimally invasive surgery
Over the years, new surgical techniques have been designed for the treatment of colorectal cancer.
For instance, studies suggest that removing lymph from the nodes during colon cancer surgery increases the likelihood of a good prognosis.
Removal of cancerous tissues or polyps is part of recent advancements in minimally invasive surgery. This technique is so effective the patients experience less pain. Also, the recovery period is shorter. Surgeons are also more precise in their work.
A good example is a laparoscopic surgery. During laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon will make small incisions on your abdomen. They will insert a small camera through the incision. Surgical instruments will also be inserted through that incision.
The latest advancements in colon cancer treatment promote the use of robotics for colorectal cancer surgery. However, more studies are being done to determine its efficacy.
According to Dr. Conor Delaney of the Cleveland Clinic, patients can now return home in a day or two, compared to the 10 days it took a decade ago. It has no drawbacks, but it will require the services of a well-trained surgeon.
Of recent, targeted therapy has been used alongside chemotherapy or in place of chemotherapy.
Compared to chemo drugs that destroy both healthy and cancerous tissue, targeted therapy attacks only cancer cells.
It is worth noting that targeted therapy is usually reserved for patients at an advanced stage of colon cancer.
Studies are still ongoing on the benefits of targeted therapy medications. You see, they do not work the same way for everyone. They are also expensive and have several side effects.
Your oncologist will discuss with you the merits and potential demerits of targeted therapy medication. Common targeted therapy drugs in use today include:
- Ziv-aflibercept (Zaltrap)
- Regorafenib (Stivarga)
- Ramucirumab (Cyramza)
- Panitumumab (Vectibix)
- Cetuximab (Erbitux)
- Bevacizumab (Avastin)
Immunotherapy may be the most recent advancement in colon cancer treatment. Immunotherapy fights cancer by using your body’s immune system.
For instance, a vaccine for colon cancer is currently being developed. But most immunotherapies are still in clinical trials.
As for what the future holds with regards to colon cancer treatment, Dr. Michael Kane, medical director of Community Oncology for Atlantic Health System and founder of Atlantic Medical Oncology, states that the future is promising, but there’s more work to be done.
Human genome sequencing looks promising with regards to early diagnosis and targeted treatment of malignancies. According to Kane, “next-generation sequencing of the colon and rectal tumors promises the ability to match an individual patient with a specific ‘cocktail’ of treatment that can lead to improved efficacy and minimize unwanted toxicities.”