Colorectal cancer is a common disease. It is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in the world: it ranks third, behind lung cancer and liver cancer, and it affects almost as many women as men (1).
Around the world, three new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed every minute, with great variability in its distribution among countries. The rate of incidence is particularly high in the United States, in certain South American countries, in Europe, in Australia and New Zealand, and more recently in Japan. In general, epidemiological studies reveal that socioeconomic status is an important prognostic factor for colorectal cancers, and that there is inequality between low-income patients and those with high incomes. A difference in exposure to risk factors (especially food) could explain this inequality. In addition, low incomes, a low level of education, and insufficient health cover would limit access to appropriate preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic care for the less-favored patients. However, the stage of the tumor at the time of diagnosis is the main factor in survival.
With early screening and management, colorectal cancer is cured in 90% of cases (2).
A progressively changing tumor
Colorectal cancer develops from a cell in the inner lining of the colon or rectum, often by progressive transformation of a benign tumor, also known as a polyp. These are growths that form in the inner wall of the colon, in the mucous membrane. The risk of transformation of a polyp into cancer varies, depending on the size and type of cells of the benign tumor.
At first, colorectal cancer develops locally. Then, cancer cells can migrate to the rest of the body through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system, and can thus form metastases (most often, in the liver and lungs).
A silent cancer
The absence of symptoms is common. Colorectal cancer can therefore develop silently and can remain undiagnosed for a while. Hence the need for screening. Nevertheless, certain signs may point to the need for consultation with your GP (see below).
Age: main risk factor
94% of colorectal cancers occur in people over 50 years of age. The average age of people at the time of diagnosis is 70 years old. While some factors are genetic, related to heredity, others are preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity and a diet rich in fiber and fruits and vegetables are beneficial. Conversely, the risks of colorectal cancer are increased by a diet rich in red meat and cured meats, excess weight or obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking.
Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) are also risk factors for colorectal cancer.
Different types of therapeutic approaches
Different types of treatments can be used to treat colorectal cancer, depending on the stage of the disease and the general condition of the patient: surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies. These treatments can have different objectives depending on the stage of the disease: to cure the cancer – that is, by destroying all the cancer cells – or to prevent the cancer from spreading or to improve the quality of life of the patient by reducing the symptoms. Depending on the case, only one treatment or a combination of treatments may be prescribed (surgery plus chemotherapy, for example).
Servier has made a major shift by making oncology one of its strategic priorities. Today, the Group spends more than a third of its R & D investment on the fight against cancer.
What is Servier’s vision in this regard? We aim to improve the management of patients with cancer, including colorectal cancer, by proposing appropriate innovative therapeutic solutions. To do this, the Group contributes to:
- developing models to better understand the mechanisms involved in the development of the disease and resistance to treatment;
- developing tools to improve the choice of the most appropriate treatment for each patient;
- evaluating different combinations of treatments to optimize patient care;
- creating less invasive methods of analysis and follow-up for patients;taking into account patient perspectives and quality of life when developing investigational medicinal products.
Get testedColorectal cancer is one of the deadliest killers, and it develops silently. However, early detection and management can cure it in 90% of cases.
Change your lifestyleMany cases are preventable by reducing the consumption of red meat, alcohol, and tobacco, and avoiding overweight or obesity.
Be informedBeing well informed about this disease and its manifestations can help prevent its occurrence, and can help patients live better with the disease and understand this cancer better.
(1) World Health Organization, 2018
(2) National Cancer Institute, Colorectal Cancer Screening, 2017
(3) World Cancer Research Fund. Colorectal cancer statistics, 2018
(4) BMJ Best Practice. Colorectal Cancer, 2018