Colon cancer and the elderly: From screening to treatment in management of GI disease in the elderly

Peter R. Holt, Peter Kozuch, Seetal Mewar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Colorectal cancer is one of the commonest tumours in the Westernized world affecting mainly the elderly. This neoplasm in older individuals occurs more often in the right colon and grows more rapidly than in the young, often shows a mucinous histology and mismatch repair gene changes. Effective screening permits discovery of colorectal cancer at an early highly treatable stage and allows for detection and removal of premalignant colorectal adenomas. Screening methods that focus on cancer detection use fecal assays for the presence of blood or altered DNA, those for detection of adenomas (and early cancer) use endoscopic or computerised radiologic techniques. Broad use of screening methods has lowered colorectal cancer development by about 50%. In addition, prevention of the earliest stage of colon carcinogenesis has been shown to be effective in small prospective studies and epidemiologic surveys but have not been employed in the general population. Since 1996 the chemotherapeutic armamentarium for metastatic colorectal cancer has grown beyond 5-fluorouracil to include an oral 5-fluorouracil prodrug, capecitabine as well as irinotecan and oxaliplatin. Three targeted monoclonal antibodies (Moabs), bevacizumab (an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor Moab) and cetuximab/panitumumab, both anti-epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors, have also earned regulatory approval. Most stage IV patients are treated with all of these drugs over 2 or 3 sequential lines of palliative chemotherapy and attain median survivals approaching 24 months. Lastly, adjuvant oxaliplatin plus 5-fluorouracil for high risk resected stage II and stage III colon cancer patient has led to substantial improvement in cure rates. With appropriate care of age associated comorbidities these treatment modalities are feasible and effective in the geriatric population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-907
Number of pages19
JournalBest Practice and Research: Clinical Gastroenterology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Colorectal cancer prevention
  • Colorectal cancer screening strategies
  • Colorectal cancer, age and gender


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