A simple test could help doctors identify colon cancer patients in Pennsylvania and nationwide who have a more aggressive type of the disease, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. As a result, these patients could opt for chemotherapy treatment, which is not typically recommended for early-stage colon cancer.

As a general rule, stage 2 colon cancer patients undergo surgery to remove their tumors and are not given chemotherapy. This is because the risks of chemo are thought to be greater than the benefits. However, researchers discovered that patients with colon tumors that do not produce a protein called CDX2 are more likely to suffer a recurrence of the disease and could, therefore, benefit from chemotherapy. It has been estimated that between 5 and 10 percent of stage 2 colon cancer patients are CDX2-negative.

Researchers examined the cases of 466 patients with any stage of colon cancer and found that only 41 percent of those with tumors that did not produce CDX2 lived cancer-free for five years post-treatment. In comparison, 74 percent of patients who produced CDX2 lived cancer-free for five years. Meanwhile, 91 percent of CDX2-negative patients who were underwent both surgery and chemotherapy lived cancer-free for five years, but only 56 percent of CDX2-negative patients who were not given chemotherapy were cancer-free after five years. Patients can be screened for CDX2 with an inexpensive anti-body test.

A doctor’s failure to properly treat aggressive cancers can lead to a worsened medical condition, which could cause needless suffering and increased medical expenses. Patients who have found themselves in this position may want to discuss their options with a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: US News, “Identifying Colon Cancer Patients Who May Need More Than Surgery,” Dennis Thompson, Jan. 20, 2016