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Patients often ask me, “What are the newest treatments in colorectal cancer?” Happily, I can respond with encouraging news. Recent discoveries are promising to improve the outcomes of those at risk for and currently battling this disease. This is especially heartening as colorectal cancer is no longer a disease exclusive to our older population; it is now on the rise in younger people as well.
As the only hospital in the New York City metropolitan area to be accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer, White Plains Hospital is committed to ensuring our patients with colorectal cancer receive the highest level of advanced care using evidence-based medicine and strategies, such as the following exciting developments:
Diagnosing colorectal cancer as early as possible is the key to better outcomes and longer life. The lowering of the recommended age for colorectal screening to age 45 (from 50) will catch thousands more cases at earlier stages, allowing for more simple and successful treatment.
In addition, the use of “circulating tumor DNA” is showing promise as a novel means of finding colorectal cancer earlier than previously possible. This up-and-coming technology identifies and measures microscopic fragments of tumor DNA from the blood and will help physicians get a step ahead of the disease.
More Precise Treatment
A new trend in colorectal cancer treatment is the development of “precision cancer medicines.” Not only are they easier to administer, these agents work better than chemotherapy by targeting specific molecular features (such as HER2, BRAF, and MSI). About 25% of people with advanced colorectal cancer have appropriate genetic targets for precision medicine or immunotherapy.
When chemotherapy is the best option, the good news is that medical advances are making the processes easier and shorter for many patients dealing with stage 3 colon cancer. Recent data from a large international study has suggested shortening the current chemotherapy duration from six months to three months. In addition, the three-month regimen uses a chemo pill instead of an infusion pump, improving quality of life without sacrificing the benefits.
Despite all these exciting developments, it’s important to remember that prevention is still priority number one. Eat well, get exercise, and follow guidelines for regular screening via colonoscopy. If you are 45 or older, or have a family history of cancer, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your risks and a screening plan.
Dr. Joshua Raff is a medical oncologist and Director of the Digestive Cancer Program at White Plains Hospital, as well as the Leader of the Hospital’s GI Cancer Program Conference. To make an appointment, call 914-849-760