That decline can be traced to a number of factors, including advanced screening techniques, new drugs and improved surgical and medical treatments.
As a result, the United States now has more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer. But even with all these advancements, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 136,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States this year and that approximately 50,000 patients will die from this disease.
Who is most at risk for colorectal cancer?
In the U.S., we are all at risk of colon and rectal cancer. Colon and rectal cancer is the third most-common cancer and second most-common cause of death from cancer.
Colon and rectal cancer can occur at any age, but the incidence increases as we age, particularly as we get over 50 years of age. For both men and women here in the U.S., the lifetime chance of getting colon and rectal cancer is about 5 percent. In some families, the risk is much higher due to genetic risk factors. A recent study by the American Cancer Society found that the incidence of colon and rectal cancer is rising at a rapid rate in young adults in their 20s. While this is a staggering finding, there have been no findings to explain this increase.
At what age should a person undergo screening for colorectal cancer?
Everyone should be screened starting at the age of 50. However, if you have a family history, family members that have had colon cancer or especially family members that have had colon cancer at an early age, screening should start earlier.
Does genetics play a role in colorectal cancer?
Genetics does play a role in colorectal cancer. In some families, the risk of developing colon and rectal cancer is high and screening for cancer should start at a much earlier age. Currently it is thought that about 20 to 25 percent of colon and rectal cancer cases have a genetic basis.
How can someone reduce his or her risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer?
Eating a Cancer Healthy diet, reducing alcohol consumption, not smoking and increasing your exercise level are all things that you can do to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
What advancements do you predict in the field of colorectal cancer?
Over the next 10 years, further advancements in the treatment of colon and rectal cancer will continue. Minimally invasive surgical treatments such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery will continue to be refined and improved. Improvements in medical therapy and radiation therapy may actually reduce the number of patients who actually need surgery.
Not only will there be new drugs and combinations of drugs, but drug therapy will be individualized to each patient based on the genetic make-up of the particular tumor. Finally, in addition to improving cure rates, advances in treatment will also reduce discomfort and side effects associated with colorectal cancer treatment.
The experts in El Camino Hospital’s cancer program are focused on finding colorectal cancer at its earliest stages and restoring you to good health. Our clinical outcomes for survival meet and often exceed national benchmarks. Learn more about how we compare.
This article first appeared in the March 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.