Colorectal Cancer and Organ Preservation

Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer worldwide – with 41,804 new cases being reported in 2012 in the UK alone, and a mortality rate of 43%  from the disease. It was also shown that 54% of these cases were preventable. Treatment of colorectal cancer can vary, with chemotherapy being the most common choice of specialists.

Colorectal cancer. Image Credit: Anatomy Insider / Shutterstock
Colorectal cancer. Image Credit: Anatomy Insider / Shutterstock

Colorectal Cancer

With colorectal cancer being mostly thought of as ‘a disease of the aging population’, some cases of this cancer can be missed by medical professionals. These are therefore only diagnosed when obvious symptoms appear and the patient’s condition deteriorates dramatically. For instance, Lynch Syndrome – a condition in which multiple polyps grow within the bowel – is a known risk factor for young colorectal cancer.

The best ways of preventing colon cancer include lifestyle and dietary changes. For example, colorectal cancer incidence has previously been linked with obesity, alcohol abuse, sleep deprivation, and lack of physical activity. Getting regular check-ups, as well as seeing a doctor if digestive symptoms persist, can also help in detecting colorectal cancer early, leading to a much better prognosis for the patient.

This video was released by NHS Scotland in 2013, in a bid to encourage people to see a doctor if they are experiencing colorectal cancer symptoms.

The Poo Song


One of the primary treatments for cancer is chemotherapy. There are many different types of chemotherapy, with all of them causing sometimes lasting effects on the body. The most common side-effect observed during chemotherapy treatments is a loss of hair from all hair-bearing regions of the patient’s body. However, the damage caused by these drugs can extend to the internal organs, and sometimes cause systemic damage. For example, a study performed in America in 2007 observed women of different ages who were treated with a certain type of chemotherapy drug. This study concluded that women aged 66-70 years who received this type of chemotherapy were more likely to develop chronic heart failure, with these rates continuing to increase for up to ten years after the study took place.

When it comes to colorectal cancer, a common side effect of chemotherapy includes liver damage (otherwise known as hepatic injury). A study performed in 2004 concluded that 44% of the 87 patients who had received chemotherapy treatments following a diagnosis of colorectal cancer had signs of liver damage. This can range from mild hemorrhage and sinusoidal injury to visible lesions on the liver.

Prevention of Organ Damage during Chemotherapy

Due to the high incidence of liver damage experienced by those who receive chemotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer, there has been some research into possible preventative measures that can be taken before and during chemotherapy treatments to help decrease the number of patients experiencing liver haemorrhage or sinusoidal injury. One of the drugs tested showed promise in a study performed in October of 2007. This study showed that out of the patients that were given this drug alongside their chemotherapy treatment, very few of them developed hepatic injury - only 27.4% of patients in this group experienced sinusoidal dilation, compared to the 53.5% observed in patients who were not given this drug during their treatment.

Organ preservation in rectal cancer: How and for whom?


Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 18, 2018

Written by

Phoebe Hinton-Sheley

Phoebe Hinton-Sheley has a B.Sc. (Class I Hons) in Microbiology from the University of Wolverhampton. Due to her background and interests, Phoebe mostly writes for the Life Sciences side of News-Medical, focussing on Microbiology and related techniques and diseases. However, she also enjoys writing about topics along the lines of Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry.


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