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Colon Cancer Treatment and Survival Rates

    • Although colon cancer still claims 49,920 lives every year in the United States, more patients than ever before are surviving the disease. There are two main reasons for this good news, says Vallejo Oncologist Chainarong Limvarapuss, M.D., at Sutter Solano Cancer Center.Opens new window “More people are getting screened for colorectal cancer—and colon cancer treatment has improved.”

      The relative five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer when diagnosed at an early stage before it has spread is about 90 percent. But only about four out of 10 colorectal cancers are found at that early stage. Once the cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate goes down, and if cancer has spread to distant organs (like the liver or lungs) the rate is about 11 percent. However, new treatment options bring hope even for more advanced cancers.

    • Colon Cancer Treatment

    • If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the first treatment step is usually removing the primary tumor, Dr. Limvarapuss explains. In some cases, radiation and chemotherapy are used to shrink the tumor―reducing tissue damage and the risk of complications during surgery. The type of treatment you receive after surgery depends on your particular risk for cancer reoccurrence. Stage 3 and 4 patients will need chemotherapy. However, 70 percent of Stage 2 patients won’t need chemotherapy follow-up.

      Seven highly effective prescription drugs are now available to treat colorectal cancer patients, says Dr. Limvarapuss. “Just a few years ago, there was only one drug available, and its effectiveness rate was only 20 to 25 percent. More drugs are currently in the testing phase that may help patients live longer and improve their quality of life.”

    • Colon Cancer Vaccine

    • Although vaccines are typically thought of as a means of prevention, ongoing research is examining the effectiveness of using vaccines to treat cancers. The vaccines work by helping the body’s immune system recognize the cancer cells. When the cells attempt to spread into other tissues the immune system recognizes them and kills them off. Some day we might even be able to use vaccines to prevent colon cancer altogether.

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