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One treatment bowel cancer sufferers don’t need to have

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Bowel cancer patients go through a rigorous programme of chemotherapy and radiation before they undergo surgery—and much of it is unnecessary, a new study has found.

Less could be more, and radiation can be dropped from the pre-op protocols without endangering the life of the patient.

As radiation therapy can cause pelvic fractures and bladder problems, it’s welcome news for the bowel cancer sufferer, say researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre.

They monitored around 1000 patients with bowel cancer—which includes colon and rectal cancers—who were not given radiotherapy.  Although most of the cancers had reached stage three, 80 percent of the patients were still alive five years later—and were faring better than those who had the standard care which included radiotherapy, with 78 percent of those still alive.

The protocols for bowel cancer have been used since the 1980s, but pelvic radiation isn’t a necessary procedure, and it’s one that comes with long-term side effects. The findings are a game-changer, the researchers say, and should be used to alter treatment of the bowel cancer patient straight away.

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References
New England Journal of Medicine, 2023; doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2303269
Article Topics: bowel cancer, Cancer, chemotherapy
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