Colorectal cancer: What you do now can save your life

Patient talking with doctor
Talk to your doctor about your family history.
Credit: Metro File

When it comes to colorectal cancer — which comprises colon cancer and rectal cancer — not all tumors are created equal. As with new developments in cancer in general, the big news in colorectal cancer treatment is genetic sequencing: defining the biology of a tumor and tailoring targeted treatment, rather than going by the old “one pill fits all” application.

“Precision medicine is the buzzword,” says Dr. Rona Yaeger, a colorectal cancer researcher for the American Cancer Society. “Already there are new drugs in clinical trials that will come on the market soon for new targeted treatments that act on particular tumor types.”

With precision medicine and improved surgery techniques, doctors are able to more accurately target tumors. The result is less treatment for colorectal cancer patients, who previously might have had to have endured unnecessary radiation or chemotherapy. That’s particularly true with tumors found in the rectum, which are typically difficult to treat.

“We’re now understanding that we’ve been over-treating and we don’t always need all that chemotherapy and radiation,” explains Yaeger. “Radiation, in particular, is something we want to avoid if possible, especially in young people, because one of the possible side effects is infertility.”

Young people? Generally, colorectal cancer is thought of as an older person’s disease. Yaeger tells Metro that the average age of colorectal cancer patients is 70, but adds that the incidence of colon cancer is increasing in 25-50 year olds.

“So far, the evidence is observational, but that’s what we’re seeing,” she says. “The problem is that in younger people, colorectal cancer is more likely to be advanced. Young people do not seek treatment until they present with symptoms, such as bloody stool, or a change in bowel movement. With young people, it’s beyond a polyp.”

Polyps are pre-cancerous ruptures in the bowel wall that are found during colonoscopy exams and simply removed. Colonoscopies — for which patients are asleep during and head home from treatment that same day — are an effective tool in preventing cancer. They’re usually given at age 50 or above, unless if there’s family history of colorectal cancer. “It’s still our best tool for preventing fatalities overall,” says Yaeger.

Despite all the advances in treatment, prevention for anyone, particularly younger people, is still paramount. Two ways to slash your risk? You’ve heard them before: a healthy (high-fiber!) diet, and regular exercise.

“Colorectal cancer in young people, and in general, continues to be a problem in the developed world’s diet of refined grains. Eating red meat and processed food is known to compound the problem. A large Body Mass Index is known to affect all cancers, including colorectal,” says Yaeger. “The more fit you are, the more you decrease your risk.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Tattooed, bearded suspect sought in Williamsburg bike theft:…

The suspected thief faces grand larceny charges after investigators said he entered the building on North 5th Street in Williamsburg.

Local

Report: Rich New Yorkers don't move from NYC…

An Independent Budget Office analysis found that the wealthiest residents don't move out of the city any more or less than other New Yorkers.

National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Food truck with a mission hires at-risk New…

A group branding itself as food trucks for social justice specifically hires and trains young men and women with troubled pasts.

Movies

Scarlett Johansson on 'Lucy':' 'I guess I’m the…

Scarlett Johansson continues her foray into action movies with thriller “Lucy”, admitting it’s been an unexpected adventure.

Movies

Review: Liking Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'…

Woody Allen's latest, "Magic in the Moonlight," concerns a magician (Colin Firth) trying to debunk an alleged psychic (Emma Stone).

Movies

Piano from 'Casablanca' up for sale at auction

An iconic piano featured in Rick's Cafe Americain in the 1942 Hollywood classic "Casablanca" is expected to be the highlight of a sale of film…

Music

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks more accessible than Animal…

Believe it or not, Avey Tare — the man in the mustachioed mask pictured here in the pool of blood — may have made the poppiest music of his career.

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

Parenting

Buy gently worn back-to-school clothes with Kidizen

Kidizen allows parents to buy and sell gently worn back-to-school clothes.

Wellbeing

Ruling could be beginning of the end for…

This morning, a federal appeals court threw out an IRS regulation that implements subsidies for low-income Americans who bought insurance through Obamacare. These Affordable Care…

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…