Chemotherapy following surgery is a common treatment option for colon cancer patients, but a new study has suggested that this treatment may do nothing to increase patients' chances of survival. What’s more, according to the research, younger patients are around two to eight times more likely to receive it than older patients.

"Most of the young patients received postoperative systemic chemotherapy, including multi-agent regimens, which are currently not recommended for most patients with early-stage colon cancer,” the study read. “Our findings suggest overtreatment of young and middle-aged adults with colon cancer," the authors write.”

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The study was conducted by a team from John P. Murtha Cancer Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md. The team used records from the U.S. Department of Defense's Central Cancer Registry and Military Health System medical claims databases, and based their findings on data from 3,143 colon cancer patients between the ages of 18 and 75 years. The patients in the study were 59 percent male.

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, begins in the colon or rectum. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is the third most common type of cancer in American men and women, and also one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

Colon cancer is usually treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and other anti-cancer drugs. According to the American Cancer Society, chemo may be given after surgery in an effort to kill any leftover cells and help lower the chance that the cancer will come back. This form of chemotherapy, called systemic chemotherapy, involves injecting drugs into your veins or taking them by mouth to ensure they enter the bloodstream and reach all parts of the body. However, according to the new research, although young and middle-aged adults who only underwent surgery had better survival compared with older patients, there was no significant differences in survival between young/middle-aged patients and older patients who received systemic chemotherapy following surgery.

Source: Manjelievskaia J, Brown D, McGlynn KA. Chemotherapy Use and Survival Among Young and Middle-Aged Patients With Colon Cancer. JAMA Surgery . 2017

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