New colon cancer finding could lead to earlier diagnosis — and better outcomes
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For many years, physicians have puzzled over why people with “clean” colonoscopies went on to develop colon cancer. New findings from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation may help explain why, and the discovery could lead to ways to detect these cancers earlier and more effectively.

Trailing only lung cancer, colon cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women, killing 65,000 Americans each year. Still, life expectancy improves considerably if the cancer is detected early: People whose colon cancer is discovered in the earliest stage have a 5-year survival rate of 90 percent, while those whose cancer is found in the latest stage have an 8 percent rate.

The most common method of screening is a colonoscopy, where doctors use a flexible scope to examine the colon. However, certain cancer-causing polyps can be easily missed during these examinations.

“Some polyps are embedded in the surface of the colon, and they’re also flat and covered up,” said David Jones, Ph.D., who holds the Jeanine Rainbolt Chair for Cancer Research at OMRF. “This makes them incredibly difficult for doctors to detect.”

For a long time, said Jones, it was thought that colon cancers that developed in patients who

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