Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common cancer in women worldwide.
Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, is cancer in any part of the colon or rectum. It usually grows very slowly over a period of 5-10 years, before it starts to spread and affect other parts of the body.
Most colorectal cancers start as benign innocent growths – called polyps – on the wall of the bowel. Polyps are like small spots or cherries on stalks, and most do not produce symptoms. Polyps are common as we get older and most polyps are not pre-cancerous. However one type of polyp, called an adenoma, can become cancerous (malignant).
If left undetected, cancer cells will multiply to form a tumour in the bowel sometimes causing pain, bleeding and other symptoms. If untreated, the tumour can spread to other parts of the body most commonly to the liver or lungs. This is called advanced, Stage 4, or metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).
Treatment for mCRC is usually palliative, which means it relieves symptoms but cannot cure the cancer. Palliative treatments, such as chemotherapy and biological therapies, can keep the cancer under control, improve quality of life and help people live longer.
In some people whose cancer has only spread to the liver and/or lungs, treatment can keep the cancer under control for a long time and could possibly cure it.
For patients to have the best outcomes, a personalised treatment plan needs to be developed based on each patient’s individual needs.