A study has found that a simple blood test which could improve treatment for thousands of sufferers may be underused.
The Mayo Clinic found that it may boost care for more than one in six patients at stage 2 of the cancer.
However, researchers discovered that many sufferers who could benefit from the test aren’t being offered it.
With the cancer affecting one in 14 men and one in 19 women in the UK, these new findings on treatment options may be particularly important.
In the findings, published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, they analysed the data of 40,844 patients and looked at the benefits of a blood test that measures the protein called carcinoembryonic antigen.
The protein has been found in higher levels in people with particular cancers, including bowel cancer.
They discovered that these blood tests could have changed the classification for 17 per cent of stage 2 colon cancer patients from average risk to high risk.
This change could have greatly altered treatment options, such as whether to use chemotherapy.
Dr Kellie Mathis, senior author and Mayo Clinic colon and rectal surgeon, said: “The decision to give a patient chemotherapy after surgery is not a light one, and physicians must weigh the risks and benefits.
“We are currently using the blood test to help make these difficult decisions, and we suggest other physicians do the same.”
While the blood test has been available for decades, it’s not widely used.
In the data, they only found it used in 54 per cent of cases.
It’s possible that the test may simply not have been entered into the database, but it’s likely that many patients were not given it.
Dr Mathis said: “There is no good reason for a physician to omit this blood test, and more work needs to be done to ensure that all patients receive it.”
At stage 2, the cancer hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs but has grown into or through the wall of the colon.
The researchers believe that the blood test could help…