Colorectal cancer remains a leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada – second only to lung cancer – despite the fact that the disease has never been more preventable or treatable than it is now. With March being Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, non-profit organization Colorectal Cancer Canada (CCC) hopes to encourage more people to get screened for the disease.
In 2017 alone, about 26,800 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer; 9,400 died as a result. Since colorectal cancer can largely be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices and regular screenings, and treatments are most effective when the disease is diagnosed in its early stages, CCC hopes to improve these stats during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
“For those who do have colorectal cancer, patients now have more options to treat this disease than ever before,” said Barry D. Stein, President of Colorectal Cancer Canada. “New treatments are being approved which can extend life with excellent quality. Other treatments are undergoing clinical trials that may completely change the manner in which we treat this disease and, for a subset of colorectal cancer patients, immunotherapies are beginning to provide hope where none existed before. I am more optimistic than ever before in our ability to prolong lives and ultimately find a cure.”
While colorectal cancer largely affects people over the age of 50, a growing number of younger people have been diagnosed in recent years. Physicians are unsure what’s behind this trend, but CCC has launched its Never Too Young (N2Y) campaign to increase disease awareness in this young population.
Colonoscopy is often used to diagnose colorectal cancer, particularly in those with a family history of the disease. Cancer Care Ontario recommends asymptomatic people over the age of 50 without a family history of colorectal cancer be screened for the disease every two years using a fecal occult blood test, capable of detecting blood in stool samples.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, surgery is the first-line treatment for colorectal cancer in the majority of cases, however patients may also be treated using chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the two. Roche’s Avastin, Eli Lilly’s Erbitux and Bayer’s Stivarga are among the most commonly used targeted treatments for colorectal cancer.
A number of new compounds are in development by companies like Array Biopharma, Genentech, Roche and Merck to treat advanced colorectal cancer.