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Colon and Rectal Tumors May Be Same: August 17, 2012

More than 143,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and more than 51,000 will die of the disease. New research is getting closer to understanding what fuels this cancer.

Seventy-four year-old Tony Rodio is a colorectal cancer survivor.

“They did a colonoscopy and I had both cancers. I had two tumors, a rectal tumor and a colon tumor,” says Rodio.

New research found rectal and colon tumors may be genetically the same type of cancer, knowledge that may change future treatment. Rodio underwent chemotherapy and radiation before having surgery.

“They operated and they took both tumors out and brought my colon down, they’re connecting now. So I have a shorter colon than most people do,” says Rodio.

Rodio has recovered, but colorectal cancer is still a top killer. Dr. Janette Gaw was his surgeon.

“Colorectal cancer is actually the second cancer killer in the country. If you find it early, then we can take it out,” says Dr. Gaw, a colorectal surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Colonoscopies are extremely reliable in finding cancer and polyps that turn into cancer. But scientists are digging deeper, looking at genetic mutations to find out what might be driving the disease.

“They’re starting to do what they call onco-typing, looking at different cancers or the type of mutations that they have to see how aggressive it may be,” says Dr. Gaw.

The newly released findings may lead to improved diagnosis and treatment for patients like Rodio.

“I feel very well for a person you know who went thorough all the stuff I went through,” says Rodio.