Colorectal cancer is a serious concern for adults across all age groups. The disease is a form of cancer that occurs due to the “abnormal growth of cells in the lining of the colon or rectum”, said Dr Niti Raizada, Director, Medical Oncology & Hemato Oncology, Fortis group of Hospitals, Bangalore.
As such, since March is celebrated as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, read on to know more about the importance of timely diagnosis, regular screenings, risk factors, and treatment options that will help you keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
How important is timely diagnosis?
“Timely diagnosis is important as the cancer only starts showing symptoms at an advanced stage and, therefore, the key to prevention is early detection and treatment”, said Dr Raizada. The expert further suggested that ideally, colorectal cancer screenings should start by early 40s for every individual.
What are some of the common symptoms?
Some symptoms that need to taken note of are “fatigue, weakness, constipation problems, abdominal cramps, and bloating”, noted Dr Raizada. A few of the more serious symptoms of this disorder include “rectal bleeding, constant abdominal discomfort, and a change in your bowel habits.”
These symptoms may be a result of other digestive health concerns, but consultation with an expert is necessary.
What are the risk factors for developing colorectal cancer?
Unhealthy diet – “Regular consumption of food items that are rich in fat and low in fiber may lead to colorectal cancer”, warned the expert. The consumption of processed or red meat is another major factor that can contribute to the onset of this kind of cancer. Dr Raizada suggested a plant-based diet to avoid this health condition.
Physical inactivity – It is important to be physically fit and exercise for a few hours in a day. Following a sedentary lifestyle with unhealthy eating habits can not only negatively affect your overall health, but also increase the chances of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
Consumption of alcohol and smoking – Smoking and alcohol consumption contribute as one of the main factors that can cause colorectal cancer. “It reduces a person’s lifespan and increases the possibility of attracting more health problems over time”, said Dr Raizada.
Family history –Immediate family members suffering from colorectal cancer have an increased chance of being susceptible to the disease. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with an expert and understand the chances of getting diagnosed with this health condition.
In recent times, there are new diagnostic and treatment options in place for this disorder. Dr Raizada said, “The approach we have is now shifting away from generalised medicines to that of personalised medicine. The treatment is now focused on the wellbeing of the patient and a faster recovery with multimodality approaches such as surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Common screening methods like Fecal Occult blood test (FOBT) and colonoscopy helps to diagnose the condition at an early stage and seek the right treatment option.”
The expert further said one must remember that treatment largely depends on the patient’s condition, including the location of the cancer, the stage, and other health concerns like comorbidity. “Once surgery is concluded, it is followed by chemotherapy, radiation, targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy as is needed,” she said.