Colorectal cancer (bowel cancer) arise from the large intestine which is part of the digestive system. Burden of colorectal cancer among Indian men is 7.7 per 100000 population and 5.1 per 100000 women. It is fifth most common cause of cancer related mortality. With economic transitions and change in dietary habits, there is a trend towards rising incidence. However it is a preventable and curable disease if caught early.
Several risk factors have been identified over years for colorectal cancer. Risk increases with age and is more common after 50 years. A diet high in red meat like pork or processed meat like hot dogs raise the risk while fruit and vegetable rich diet lowers the risk. High fat diet, Overweight, smoking and alcohol are other reasons. Hereditary factor play role in a very small proportions and these are at risk of developing cancer at an earlier age.
As very few symptoms are associated with early stage, regular screening is recommended. Alarming signs include a change in bowel habbits such as diarrhea, constipation, narrowing of stools that lasts for longer duration, rectal bleeding, dark coloured stools, weakness with low haemoglobin.
Benefits of early detection and treatment are life changing. Most commonly employed guideline for screening is colonoscopy in age group 50-75 years at an interval of 10 years. If genetic risk factors it is started early, 10 years earlier than the youngest family member affected or in 20s.
Colorectal cancer requires surgery in almost all cases for complete cure, sometimes in conjunction with radiation and chemotherapy as per the stage. Radical resection of the tumor bearing segment of colon, with wide margins and removal of the lymphatic drainage, is the standard for curative therapy. In recent times surgical oncologists also approach by minimal invasive surgical methods like laparoscopy and robotics for early recovery. 80-90% of patients are restored to normal health if detected and treated in the early stages while cure rate is 50% or less in later stages.
Some patients with lower rectal cancer require stoma which is an opening made in anterior abdominal wall for passing out fecal matters, when it is not possible to restore normal continuity. It may be temporary and in few case permanent. For many persons who are affected seriously by their disease, osteomy is start of new healthier and better life with near normal activities. It’s not a problem rather it’s a solution when normal route is impaired.
In addition to screening, people may be able to lower the risk of getting the disease by avoiding foods that are high in fat and read meat, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and other high-fiber foods, regular exercising, and avoiding smoking and alcohol. So be aware and beat cancer.