Progress against Colon Cancer. Part 1

Cancer |

Q.Why is colon cancer so frequently fatal? Have doctors made any recent progress in treatments and cures?

R.H.V.

A.The outlook for people with colon cancer varies greatly depending on how advanced the cancer is when detected. The five-year survival rates are more than 90 percent for early disease localized to the inner portion of the colon wall, 80 percent if the cancer has invaded the muscle layer of the colon wall, 40-60 percent if lymph nodes are involved, and less than 10 percent if other organs (such as the liver or lungs) are involved.

A. Colon cancer almost always begins in a colon polyp. The cancer grows slowly in the polyp and invades the wall of the colon, advancing to adjacent structures in the abdomen, including lymph nodes. Finally, more distant organs become involved. Colon cancer is generally curable by surgery if it is localized to the bowel. Once it has invaded beyond the colon and into lymph nodes or adjacent structures, surgery alone will not suffice and chemotherapy must be used.

The chemotherapy regimens for colon cancer are not as effective as those for other types of tumors, and research is being done to improve the types of medications available to treat this disease.

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