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For the third blog in our Young and Brave series, we wanted to explore the difference between left versus right-sided colon cancer. A review of colon cancer research published in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology found the location of cancer in the colon is an important factor in diagnosing and managing colon cancer. 

Before we dive in, let’s distinguish the two. Right-sided colon cancer (RCC) consists of cancers of the cecum, ascending and transverse colon up to the splenic flexure. Left sided colorectal cancer (LCRC) consists of cancers of the descending and sigmoid colon, along with the rectum. With 20 percent of rectal cases, a LCRC, occurring in people under 50, it’s important to take a closer look at this topic to give you the information you need to know. 

What are the top differences between RCC and LCRC?

  • After reviewing over 80 studies and research papers, the authors found that historically, LCRC occurs at a higher incidence than RCC. In 2014, the American Cancer Society reported 51 percent of LCRC, compared to 42 percent of RCC. 
  • Another difference is related to stage at diagnosis. Patients with RCC tend to be diagnosed at more advanced tumor stages compared to patients with LCRC.
  • The difference in tumor stage diagnoses can be related to symptoms. RCC patients tend to experience more subtle symptoms, such as anemia or weight loss, which could be attributed to other issues and may lead to misdiagnosis. On the other hand, LCRC patients present more attributable symptoms, such as rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits. 
  • Lastly, after adjusting for tumor stage, survival rates were lower among RCC patients compared to LCRC patients. After looking at over 70,000 patients, the authors found a 5 percent lower survival in RCC compared to LCRC.  

What does this mean for me?

In response to this article, Patient Advocate Medical Consultant and young survivor Dr. Laura Porter said, "I find this information very intriguing and it was discussed at a big meeting (ASCO) this year. While there are differences between LCRC and RCC, the impact on treatment is still not clear.  Hopefully, in the next few years we will have LCRC and RCC as biomarkers to guide treatment decisions and aid in deciding when aggressive treatments would be beneficial."

Want to learn more about colon cancer symptoms? Check out our website for a detailed list of common symptoms. Are you experiencing symptoms but can’t afford a colonoscopy? Through our Blue Hope Financial Assistance Program, we are able to offer no-cost colonoscopies to qualified individuals. 

 Our monthly Young & Brave blog series brings you the information you need to know about the latest in young-onset colon cancer. Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have questions or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. 

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