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CT Scans Predict Long Term Outcomes in Colorectal Cancer Patients

September 25, 2020

Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer in men and women around the globe. According to, 147,950 people will be given a colorectal cancer diagnosis and 53,200 people are likely to die due to colorectal cancer in the US this year.  

In order to improve the survival rate of colorectal cancer patients, diagnostic tools should be further improved to ensure a rapid and accurate diagnosis.

Doctors usually take a biopsy from the patient and send it off to the laboratory. The laboratory technicians will perform tests on the biopsy to find out if the patient has colorectal cancer. If the biopsy can’t be done, then other tests will be used such as colonoscopy, physical exam, molecular testing, blood tests, etc.

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina assessed whether CT scans and staging could be used to determine the long term outcomes in colorectal cancer patients. The team of researchers published their findings in Abdominal Radiology.

Histological tests were used to confirm the colorectal cancer diagnosis. Then the researchers looked through the medical information of 91 patients aged 18 – 40 years old. The researchers specifically reviewed the symptoms, treatments, CT scans, staging, and outcomes in the first year and fifth year over a 10 year period. This was done to find out if CT scans and clinical staging had any association with the patient’s outcome.  

“Most patients had large tumors on imaging, increasing the likelihood of identification on CT. Patients with tumors in the rectum, colonic obstruction, or with enlarged lymph nodes or liver masses at initial CT were more likely to have an advanced surgical stage and poor prognosis. A majority of patients presented at an advanced stage, most commonly stage 4A, and had progression of disease at follow-up,” said the authors of the research paper.

In the research paper, they also detailed the survival rates for colorectal cancer patients. The researchers found that the 5-year survival rate was 39.9% for colorectal cancer patients. However, as the disease stage advanced, the survival rate dramatically reduced in the patients.

This research suggests that CT scans could be very useful in identifying colorectal cancer and predicting the patient’s outcome when used in the early days. The researchers believe that CT scans could be a great initial step used to find colorectal cancer, but they suggest that further experimental studies should be conducted in larger and more diverse groups of people to determine whether the patient outcomes are similar to this study. 

Image created by Jason Robert Young (CC BY-SA 4.0)