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Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment And Much More

Colon which constitutes the lower part of the digestive system, are a part of lower intestines. Development of precancerous polyps originating from the colon or rectum leads to the development of colorectal cancer

Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment And Much More

Early detection is very important to cure colon cancer.

Colon and rectum which constitutes the lower part of the digestive system, are a part of lower intestines, that aid in absorbing water from the stools and storing the stools until bowel movement respectively. Development of precancerous polyps originating from the colon or rectum (that usually have the common symptoms) leads to the development of colorectal cancer. Until now, colon cancer used to be a disease that affects after the 50's but in the recent decade, there is a sharp increase in the number of cases among the younger population. It is surprising to see that almost 35% of the patients suffering from colon or rectal cancer or colorectal cancer are diagnosed under the age of 40 years.

Timely diagnosis is highly important in deciding the due course of the treatment. Many cancers, like, cancer of the colon and rectum have been extensively researched and therefore, these can be treated well if diagnosed on time. Cancer of colon is considered to be the third most common cancer diagnosed both in men and women. Ideally screening for colon cancer should begin at the age of 40 in healthy adults, but due to poor lifestyle habits among the youngsters, it is quite likely to strike early. With extensive surveillance, early detection and prompt treatment coupled with a few lifestyle changes like, maintaining ideal body weight and consuming high fibre content, the incidence of cancer colon can be controlled.

Colon cancer: Everything you need to know


Symptoms

Symptoms like fatigue, weakness, change in bowel habits, diarrhea or constipation, blood stains in stool, sudden weight loss accompanied by abdominal cramps and bloating should never be ignored. Though the symptoms may be an indication of other digestive disorders, it is advisable to rule out the possibilities of colon cancer at the earliest.

What are the major risk factors for developing colorectal cancer?

Apart from being genetic (which may only have 15-20% chances of affecting the next generation), poor lifestyle habits are the major contributing factors that increase the risk of developing colon cancer up to three times higher.

1. Poor diet - Many studies are suggestive of the fact that regular consumption of diet low in fiber and high in fat are attributing to the rise in colon cancer cases. Also the risk doubles in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meat.

2. Physical inactivity - It is advised for everyone to at least devote 5-6 hours a week for exercise or any kind of physical activity, devoid of which also has higher chances of developing colon cancer. A poor, inactive and a sedentary lifestyle makes you highly vulnerable to such cancers also affecting the overall health.

3. Lifestyle disorders - Obesity and diabetes not only raise the chances of developing colon cancer but in comparison to a person with normal weight, patients with higher BMI or being insulin resistance also have an increased risk of mortality due to colon cancer.

4. Smoking and bingeing on alcohol - Alcoholics and chain smokers have an elevated risk of colon cancer. Most of the Indian youth in the age bracket of 25-35 years of age are addicted or used to such situation either smoking or alcoholism. Smoking cessation and restricting alcohol intake reduces the chances of colon cancer greatly.

How is it treated?

Early detection is very important to cure colon cancer.

Surgical Intervention - Different types of treatment are available for patients with colon cancer depending on the stage of cancer, whether cancer has recurred and patient's health and age, etc. Surgery is the most common treatment for all stages of colon cancer. In ideal situations, where the cancer is found at a very early stage, a doctor can remove the tumor with a colonoscope. Most of the time, however, colon surgery is required. Also, depending on the age and health of a patient, a laparoscopic colectomy can be done to eliminate colon cancer. It surely avoids a big incision on the abdomen and allows early recovery from operation and an early return to work for young patients.

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(Dr. Mayank M Madan, GI & Bariatric Surgeon, CK Birla Hospital for women, Gurugram)

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