SATURDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- For patients undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer, a new study suggests that the sooner chemotherapy starts following the operation, the better the prognosis.
For every month after the first four weeks post-surgery that chemotherapy is delayed, odds of survival decrease measurably, the Canadian researchers found.
"What our research has indicated is that giving chemo early rather than later after surgery is associated with improved survival," said study lead author Dr. James J. Biagi, a medical oncologist and head of the oncology department at Queens University, in Kingston, Ontario. "Giving it later appears to be detrimental."
"But at the same time, we also believe that it still might be worthwhile having a patient look to chemotherapy even if they wouldn't be starting until the three-month point," Biagi added. Traditionally, oncologists avoided recommending chemo after that benchmark.
Biagi and his colleagues are slated to present their findings Saturday in Chicago at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, and the study will appear in the June 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In Western countries, colorectal cancer is the number three cause of cancer fatalities, the authors said.
Surgery to remove cancerous tissue is usually the first line of treatment for patients diagnosed with stage 1, II, or III colorectal cancer, followed by chemotherapy to eradicate any remaining disease. The ideal time frame for beginning chemo remains unclear, however.
To examine the question, the authors systematically reviewed and did a meta-analysis of data from 10 different studies conducted between 1975 and 2011. (A meta-analysis statistically combines the results of different studies with related hypotheses.) In total, the investigations involved more than 15,400 patients.
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