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Chemo Overused in Younger Colon Cancer Patients?

Published on 21 February 2017 back to previous

Study found the treatment often wasn't beneficial, but cancer expert says more research is needed.

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Young and middle-aged colon cancer patients may be getting chemotherapy more often than is warranted, a new study suggests.

"Most of the young patients received postoperative systemic chemotherapy, including multi-[drug] regimens, which are currently not recommended for most patients with early stage colon cancer," the study authors wrote. The research team was led by Dr. Kangmin Zhu from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Overall, the findings "suggest overtreatment of young and middle-aged adults with colon cancer," Zhu and colleagues concluded.

One colon cancer expert who reviewed the study said it addresses an often difficult question.

"There is a rising trend of younger patients being diagnosed with colon cancer," said Dr. Anna Levy. She's an oncologist at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y.

"The premise for the paper is a valid one," she added. "When faced with a fit, young patient with cancer, the inclination of the medical oncologist is to offer treatment, which may increase their chance of living longer without disease recurrence."

But, given that chemotherapy often has side effects, is this approach being too readily used?

To find out, Zhu's team reviewed data on more than 3,100 colon cancer patients in the U.S. military who were cared for across the United States. All were aged 18 to 75, and had been diagnosed between 1998 and 2007.

Patients aged 18 to 64 were two to eight times more likely to undergo chemotherapy after surgery than people aged 65 to 75, the researchers found. Those findings were true regardless of how advanced the tumor was at diagnosis.

Young and middle-aged patients were also 2.5 times more likely to have chemotherapy using multiple drugs than older patients were, according to the researchers.

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