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There’s a “cure” for colorectal cancer

Posted on: April 6, 2009

By Nurul Halawati Azhari Bernama – Monday, April 6

KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 (Bernama) — Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, is the most common malignancy affecting Malaysian men, and the third most common that hits the opposite gender.

Among the different ethnic groups, the incidence is highest among the Chinese community.

With 655,000 deaths recorded worldwide each year, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the western world.

However, in most western countries, the number of cases had remained stable.

But in Asia, especially in countries such as Japan and Singapore the number of cases had been steadily increasing for the past 10 years.

Colorectal cancer has even replaced lung cancer as the most common cancer that affects men.

“Colon cancer is not so common before in Japan, Singapore or in Asian countries. One theory is the so-called westernisation of the diet.

“Look at the westernised diet in Japan. They are eating less and less fiber, drinking more alcohol and consuming more meat.

“Iâ€TMm not saying that meat causes cancer. But sometimes the dietary habit could be a factor. Diet plays an important role. That could be an explanation why countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Japan are now facing the increasing number of cases for colon cancer”, said Malaysian Oncological Society president Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Abdul Wahid.


“Cancer can be cured if detected early”.

Doctors keep repeating this message all the time. But for cancer, patients sometimes need more than one type of treatment. Surgery may not be enough and patient may need additional therapies.

According to Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, cancer treatment is very complex and challenging. If colorectal cancer is found at its early stages and with little spread, it is curable.

“When it is detected at the later stages, then the chance of cure is less. The early and later stages have different methods of treatment. And with the different methods, we looked at how long the patient can survive within five years.

“We did not look at their life expectancy but look at how many patient can survive. Are they still doing well or not”, said Dr Mohamed Ibrahim.

An oncologist would need to consider several things before deciding which treatment is the best for the patient. Surgery remains the primary treatment while chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy maybe recommended depending on the individual patientâ€TMs staging and other medical factors.


Just as there are many different types of cancer, there are also many different ways to treat cancer.

While most people might have heard of one or two different forms of cancer treatment, doctors often use a combination of therapies not only to remove the tumor but also to ensure that the cancer does not return.

Consultant Medical Oncologist, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) Dr Christina Ng said the ability of doctors to identify specific cancer cells is an incredible breakthrough.

It enabled them to target the cells and deprive them of energy, thus preventing the further growth of the tumour.

This kind of treatment is a significant advancement from conventional therapy such as chemotherapy, which kills all cells that grow and develop.

“This is based on the understanding that cancer cells grow much faster than normal cells hence cancer cells would be destroyed first.

“However, other cells that also grow rapidly, such as the lining of the stomach, bone marrow, ovaries and hair follicles, are also affected”.


Targeted therapies such as Cetuximab only attack cancer cells.

It is able to attach itself to epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) thereby blocking the cell from receiving the nutrients it needs to survive and replicate.

“This prevents the tumour from invading other normal tissues and the spread of the tumour to other organs. In effect, cetuximab starves the cancer cell. As a result, targeted therapies tend to have fewer side effects”.

According to Global Cancer News, Cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody approved for the treatment of colorectal and head and neck cancers.

Cetuximab is the only first-line treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer that has a predictive biomarker which enables accurate selection of patients who will benefit most from therapy.

This biomarker, called KRAS, is a protein which helps regulate EGFR.


According to National Cancer Registry, there are experience and situations which form our perception of things like cancer.

However not all these perceptions are accurate.

There are some myths about colorectal cancer. Some believed that colorectal cancer is a manâ€TMs disease but the truth, it is almost as common among women as it is in men.

It is not true that colon cancer cannot be prevented because an early warning sign of colon cancer is the formation of a small, non-cancerous growth called a polyp. If the polyp is found early, it can be removed before cancer develops.

For those who believed this kind of cancer can strike at any age, they should know, most cases of colorectal cancer in Malaysia occured in people over the age of 40.

It is also a myth that cancer treatment kills good cells as well as bad cells. The truth is doctors have several methods at their disposal in treating cancer such as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

These are often used in combination to achieved the desired results of removing the tumor cells, preventing the cancer recurring and prolonging the life of the patient.

“Side effects such as vomiting and nausea are manageable. It is important to take this in perspective as all the medical treatments have the side effects potential. But, this does not mean that they are not effective treatment”, said Dr Mohamed Ibrahim.

“Many people go for alternative therapy. They believe alternative therapy can cure cancer. But one must realize that cancer treatment need to be rigorously tested and scientifically verified to be effective.

Until today, alternative therapies are neither tested nor verified to be effective against cancer”, he added.




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1 Response to "There’s a “cure” for colorectal cancer"

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