However, Goldberg said there are inherent challenges to treating aging colon cancer patients.
Because there are few studies demonstrating how seniors respond to chemo drugs and other therapies, doctors are sometimes reluctant to try the full dose of standard treatment protocols. The few studies that have been done suggest that colon cancer patients in their seventh decade and beyond may not respond as well to treatment as younger patients.
But Goldberg said doctors need to get a handle on treatment options for senior colon cancer patients because they are the ones at greatest risk. Overall, 90 percent of new cases of colon cancer and 94 percent of deaths occur in individuals 50 and older, according to the National Cancer Institute. The incidence rate of colorectal cancer is more than 15 times higher in adults 50 years and older than in those who are younger.
Goldberg said it is also important to treat each patient as an individual regardless of age.
Other than cancer, Fisher had few health problems which made him a good candidate for treatment. Goldberg said it helped that he was fully engaged in discussions about his care and had a strong support system in his wife Martha and his three grown daughters, Christine, Sherry and Julie.
And as Goldberg noted, Fisher was motivated to push through the hardships. Before Fisher became his patient, Goldberg used to ride his bike past his house and admire the neatly manicured lawn, impressive vegetable garden and well-appointed workshop.
"When I met him and realized this was his house, it all made sense," Goldberg said. "This was a guy who had goals and a lot to live for."
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013 there were about 140,000 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer and nearly 50,000 of them will die of the disease in the U.S. In both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death.
Please join Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical correspondent, for a tweet chat on the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer today at 1 p.m., ET.
The chat is co-sponsored by the American Gastroenterological Association. Other cancer organizations, care providers and patients will also be attending. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with colon cancer, please come tweet with us and share your story.
Joining the chat is easy. Click here for details.