I was very pleased to see how many people have read and downloaded the advice about reducing your risk of colon cancer. I was also very happy with the announcement this morning that Tony Snow’s cancer has not spread to his liver.
People who develop cancer of the colon can often be cured of their original tumors, but some grow back and then they can be more difficult to eradicate. Most relapses occur within 2.5 to 3.0 years. If a tumor has not returned within five years, many doctors consider that the patient has been cured.
The risk of getting a tumor and of it recurring is greater if there is some “predisposing factor,” including a positive family history for colon cancer, familial polyps of the colon or inflammatory bowel disease. The risk of recurrence is also higher in people who get the illness before the age of fifty. We are beginning to see the emergence of genetic tests that can help predict people at high risk of developing colon cancer. People with any of these factors should get particularly careful screening.
Over the last ten years several new drugs for the treatment of colon cancer have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration:
None is a cure, but they may help in people whose disease has spread to other organs. Most are used in combination with older and often more toxic chemotherapies.
Colorectal cancer is the number two cause of cancer-related death in the United States. It is estimated that there will be 153,000 new cases this year that will ultimately result in 52,000 deaths. The earlier that the disease is caught, the better the chance of a cure. The American Cancer Society has published these five-year survival figures:
Stage 1 - Limited to the colon 93%
Stage 2 – Spread through the wall of the colon 72-85%
Stage 3 – Spread to local lymph nodes 44-83%
Stage 4 – Spread to other organs 8%
Bear in mind that even the most gloomy figures are only based on current treatments: we do not know what the future holds.
The data are also for people who have only had conventional treatments. Integrated Medicine suggests using conventional treatment as well as addressing the psychological, social, subtle and spiritual aspects of the illness. We have little empirical data that such a comprehensive approach works better than conventional medicine alone, but clinicians around the world have accumulated a great deal of experience to indicate that this kind of comprehensive approach helps not only with survival, but also in quality of life and in comprehending the meaning and purpose of the illness.