The second most deadly cancer in the U.S., colorectal cancer is expected to kill a thousand people a week. It’s been called simultaneously the most preventable and least prevented form of cancer. Almost half of all people over 50 have not been screened, even though with early detection, it is highly treatable.
Now new genomic techniques may help both make cancer more treatable and make testing for it easier. One product being studied replaces the colonoscopy with a stool test.
“If approved, this simple, non-invasive test that accurately detects pre-cancer and early-stage colorectal cancer may improve screening participation and help save lives,” gastroenterologist Robert Hardi said in a statement. Dr. Hardi led a clinical study to evaluate the test.
Other research looked at the tumors themselves, comparing gene sequences from them to healthy tissue in the same patients. This allows scientists developing cancer treatments to target those treatments based on the cancer’s genetic signature. What they found is that colorectal cancer has genes found in other types of cancer, but not in normal cells. Treatments targeting those genetic sequences can be effective against multiple forms of cancer.
As for screening, it’s a good idea to do it regularly. But “regularly” doesn’t mean every year, even if you’ve had polyps removed in the past. The current recommendation is that patients who’ve had high-risk adenomas removed should be checked for colorectal cancer every three years.
However, in a German study, researchers determined that people who’ve had these high-risk growths removed actually had a lower cancer risk than people who hadn’t within three years after removal. Even three to five years on, patients who’d had polyps had half the cancer risk of those who hadn’t.
They recommend the same five-year interval for patients regardless of history of polyps. However, it’s important to consult your doctor, and follow their advice for your specific case.