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Colorectal Cancer
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Health Care
Cancer / Oncology
Colorectal Cancer
 

Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the large bowel and the third most common cancer in men and women, representing 13% of all cancers. In Europe, almost 190,000 patients are newly diagnosed each year with colorectal cancer. About 20 percent of patients have metastatic disease (spreading beyond the large bowel) at the time of diagnosis, and 50 percent of all colorectal cancer patients will develop metastases and ultimately die from their disease. About 56,000 people die from colorectal cancer every year in the US and the mortality rate in Europe exceeds 100,000 patients per year.

What is Colorectal Cancer?
The colon and rectum are parts of the large intestine. Digested food that has been broken down in the small intestine passes on through to the large intestine, a muscular tube about five feet long. The large intestine absorbs water and mineral nutrients from the food matter and stores waste matter called feces or stool, which pass out of the body. The first 4 feet or so of the large intestine is called the colon and the remainder is the rectum. Colorectal cancers are solid tumours (growths) which start in the innermost layer of the intestine and can grow through some or all of the other layers.

Management of Colorectal Cancer
The chance of cure for people who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer is clearly related to the stage of the disease. Early cancers have an excellent prognosis while advanced cancers have a poor prognosis. Often colorectal cancer does not show any symptoms at all until rather late in the disease.

A variety of treatment options are available. These therapies range from surgical removal of the cancerous tissue to radiation therapy and the administration of chemotherapy agents. Most therapies, however, are associated with severe side effects that significantly interfere with the patient's lifestyle.

New Treatment Options
Despite the improvements in chemotherapy treatments, the available options remain unsatisfactory to colorectal cancer patients. The fluoropyrimidines, administered intravenously, have formed the basis of colorectal cancer therapy for over 40 years. However, there is a need for new therapies offering improved efficacy, tolerability and convenience. In fact, two recent studies examining preferences for therapy found that patients overwhelmingly favoured (84 percent and 92 percent) newer oral therapies as opposed to the standard intravenous therapy. Convenience, administration of the drug at home, and problems with intravenous access were cited in both studies as major reasons for this preference.

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