Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the Western Countries worldwide, with 500,000 new cases of colon cancer and approximately 250,000 deaths from colon cancer each year in the US and EU combined. This makes CRC the second-most deadly cancer after lung cancer.
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they are often referred to as colorectal cancers. In the US alone, more than 140,000 individuals are diagnosed and 55,000 people die of colorectal cancer annually. Unfortunately, at diagnosis 50-70% of the patients have invasive cancer with a 5 year survival of 62%. This because the cancer often developes into an invasive disease at time of diagnosis in many patients.
Curable when diagnosed early
CRC is a slow-growing disease and curable when diagnosed early. Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) mass of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers.
Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, the European and US medical community recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps before they become colon cancer.
Colonoscopy is the best available method to detect and remove polyps in the colon. Colonoscopy requires extensive training, but still 22% of polyps are missed with standard white light colonoscopy of which half were larger than 10mm. The American National Polyp study showed that 70-90% of intestinal cancers can be prevented by rigorous polypectomy. Colorectal cancer is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage, whereas the survival rate rises significantly with early stage surgical resection. Effective early screening is therefore highlighted as the key to reducing mortality.