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QF Focus Magazine Colon cancer has seen an increase in survival rate

About 30,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed annually in Spain, a disease whose survival rate has risen in the last 15 years thanks to early diagnosis, improved treatments, and screening plans. Colon cancer is one of the few malignant tumours that can be diagnosed early, as confirmed, in an interview with EFE, by José Farré, the head of the General Surgery and Unit for Digestive Surgical Oncology at the Hospital Quiron Torrevieja.

José Farré, along with his colleague, physician Pedro Bretcha, form part of the team, which specialise in the personalised treatment of colon cancer.

“Colon cancer in males is the third highest, behind lung and prostate, and in women, the second, after breast cancer. But if both sexes are taken into account at the same time, the most common cancer type is colon cancer” with between 28,000 and 30,000 new cases a year in Spain, according to the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC), indicated Farré.

According to the specialist, the survival of those affected by this disease has gone from 50 to 65 per cent in the last fifteen years, a very encouraging percentage that is due to the advances in treatments and early diagnosis.

“We have moved forward significantly in this field, because previously more than half of the patients did not live for five years after diagnosis”, noted Farré, who recommends undergoing stool occult blood tests, and if positive, a colonoscopy, once you reach 50 years of age, to determine whether or not you have this medical condition.

The majority of the cases are diagnosed between 65 and 75 years, with a peak at 70. Only between six and ten percent of colon cancers are genetic. Specialists say that screening of the most vulnerable, because of their age, could prevent it starting or detect it at an early stage, increasing the chances of cure.

Although the treatments most frequently used in colon cancer are surgery and chemotherapy, another strategy that applies to people

with this disease at an advanced stage is the use of biological agents aimed at specific molecules of the tumour cell or its surroundings.

“Currently there are sufficient studies showing that chemotherapy associated with monoclonal antibodies improve the outcome compared to chemotherapy alone,” according to sources of the Hospital Quiron Torrevieja.

On the other hand, Hospital Quiron is one of the pioneers in the application of the treatment known as HIPEC - the use of chemotherapy and hyperthermia (heat to 43 degrees Celsius) in the same surgery - in cases of peritoneal carcinomatosis. With this technique, invented by the American Professor Paul Sugarbaker, more than 40% of patients with peritoneal carcinomatosis - spread of tumour cells of digestive or gynecological origin over the surface of the abdominal cavity (metastasis) - saw their lives extended by five years and, there have even been some cases of cure, according to Farré.

This method is still evolving, and it can be combined with other treatments. In addition, some Spanish hospitals, where appropriate, carried out the Circulating Tumour DNA test, a new technology also known as liquid biopsy, which determines whether or not the treatment that the patient is following is effective through a blood sample from the patient. Farré explained that tumours release cells and genetic material into the bloodstream enabling this technology to find any traces with specific tumour mutations.

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