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This is How Doctors Fight Colorectal Cancer

March 12, 2020

Doctors are always working to find better ways to fight colorectal cancer. This includes finding ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease.

Colorectal cancer kills more than 50,000 people each year. According to the American Cancer Society, excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. It is also the second leading cause of death from cancer.

Surgery and chemotherapy are treatment options, but researchers at cancer.net keep tabs on the latest studies and techniques being used to fight colorectal cancer. You should always talk to your doctor first about the best treatment options for you. But let’s take a look at some of the tactics that are now being used to take down the disease.

Fighting Colorectal Cancer

An important part of colon cancer awareness is reviewing your family history. Up to 30% of colon cancer patients have a family history of the disease. Remember that it’s the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women. Here’s how doctors are battling the disease:

  • Colorectal cancer screening: Men over age 50 should get a colonoscopy every 10 years, unless you have a family history or other risk factors — in which case, your doctor may recommend earlier and more frequent screenings.
  • Improved detection methods: Researchers continue to develop tests to analyze stool samples to find genetic changes associated with colorectal cancer. During colonoscopies, doctors find and remove polyps. This allows them to identify cancer early and give them a better chance of curing the disease.
  • Tests to predict the risk of cancer recurrence: Tests to identify the genes that spark the growth and spread of tumors are increasing. Doctors and patients use the results of these tests to decide whether to use chemotherapy after treatment, and it may help others with a lower risk of recurrence to avoid the side effects of additional treatment.
  • Immunotherapy: There’s now a class of drugs that target the ways that tumor cells avoid the immune system. They’re called checkpoint inhibitors, and the latest research shows that certain checkpoint inhibitors, called PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors, can be effective against a type of metastatic colorectal cancer, but more studies are needed.
  • BRAF mutations: There’s also ongoing research on BRAF mutations. They occur in about 10% of colorectal cancers. For cancers that metastasize, there are trials testing targeted therapies aimed at BRAF-mutated tumors. Early findings show that certain combination therapy strategies may work.
  • New drugs: The researchers at cancer.net say many new drugs are being tested for colorectal cancer. This includes new types of chemotherapy and targeted therapy are being studied.
  • Palliative care: Clinical trials are also underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current colorectal cancer treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

How You Can Fight Colorectal Cancer

Keep in mind that the risk of colorectal cancer increases with age. Colon cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people age 50 and older. The average age for a colon cancer diagnosis is 68 in men and 72 in women. For rectal cancer, the median age is 63 in both men and women.

In addition to family history and age, other risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

If you’d like more information on how to decrease your risk of colon cancer and other diseases, talk to one of our physicians. And if you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our guide “Midlife Health Screenings For Men and Women.” Inside you’ll find what types of screenings you need and how often you should get them as you age.

Midlife Health Screenings