ARLINGTON — Walking helps keep 66-year-old Phil Waigand healthy. Diagnosed with stage 2 rectal cancer in 2009, he underwent radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
"Then, six months chemo post-op after that," says Waigand, "The thing is, they rid it (cancer) in your body but there are still parts that could metastasize. And they're never 100-percent sure."
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, according to the CDC.
A new study from the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and the Center for Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genomics at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas identified a biomarker within the blood that could help predict which colorectal cancer patients have a high risk of their disease spreading in the future.
The research is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute by Dr. Ajay Goel.
"Having that knowledge is very important," says Dr. Goel, Ph.D., "because the oncologist would know that you are a high-risk patient. You need to be treated differently, you need to be treated more aggressively so that your disease does not spread to other organs. So this is clinically very important because a lot of lives can be saved if this disease does not go beyond the colon."
Doctors could also decide on less aggressive treatment, which prevents the toxic effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
Waigand was given no options.
"You do it this way," he said. "This is something that had to be aggressively addressed."
Right now, all he can do is take steps to maintain the best health he can, not knowing if his cancer could come back.
Experts say colorectal cancer is highly curable, if caught in its earliest stages. The American Cancer Society recommends screening colonoscopy starting at age 50.