Doctors diagnose an estimated 1.8 million new cases of colorectal cancer (CRC) every year. The third most commonly diagnosed cancer, CRC is the second leading cause of cancer related death. The global number of CRC cases is expected to increase to more than 2.2 million new cases and approximately 1.1 million deaths annually by 2030.
Lifestyle choices such as fatty diets, smoking and heavy drinking may increase the risk of bowel cancer. More than nine in ten patients with CRC are over the age of 50. They often ignore early symptoms, including blood in the stool or changes in bowel habits. Early diagnosis significantly increases the likelihood of successful treatment. Surgeons may still be able to remove malignant tissue before it affects other parts of the body. But in a quarter of new cases, this spread to other parts of the body, or metastasizing, has already happened.
Metastatic CRC (mCRC) is cancer that started in the large intestine or rectum but has since spread to another organ. Blood from the colon goes directly to the liver, which is often the first organ affected as the disease spreads. The lymph nodes, which are near the bowel, are also vulnerable at this stage.
As with other cancers, treatment for mCRC depends on how advanced the disease is, the organs affected, and the health of the patient. A mixture of different treatments is common. Options currently include chemotherapy and newer therapies that specifically target cancer cells.
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* Treatments for this type of cancer are not available in the US and Canada.