Colorectal cancer or cancers of the large intestine
starts with the abnormal growth of cells in the colon or rectum resulting in
polyps. Most polyps are non-threatening, but some can become cancerous over
time. If left untreated, cancerous polyps can grow and spread to other parts of
the body, becoming dangerous and potentially life-threatening. The risk of
colorectal cancer increases as people get older. Inflammatory bowel diseases,
such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and certain medical conditions,
such as type 2 diabetes and obesity contribute to an increase in the risk of
The month of March is celebrated as a Colorectal
Cancer Awareness month. Colorectal cancers are the 3rd
most common cancer in Indian men and women seen steadily increasing
across the globe. Often asymptomatic in its early stages, regular screening for
colorectal cancer is critical for early detection and timely treatments. The
rising numbers of the disease in the young population <40 years of age is fast
becoming a matter of grave concern. While age, genetics, and family history do sum
up increased risks, lifestyle habits are contributing to potential risks. The
additional risks are preventable through significant lifestyle changes.
Recognized symptoms of
colorectal cancers are persistent changes in bowel habits like diarrhoea,
constipation, changes in the consistency of stool, changes in frequency to use
the loo, and blood in your stool. Other symptoms include unexplained weight loss,
fatigue, the feeling of incomplete evacuation of the bowel, and persistent
abdominal discomforts like cramps, gas, or pain. It is important
to note that the above-mentioned symptoms may not be necessarily caused by
cancer and may be due to other less serious conditions and require quick
With significant advancements in the treatment of
colorectal cancers, patients (5-10%) even in stage 4 (with lung, and liver
limited spread) can have good long-term outcomes with multimodality treatment.
Furthermore, patients with limited peritoneal metastases can also avail the
benefits of cytoreductive surgery and Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy
(HIPEC). For patients with rectal cancers having a permanent stoma (toilet) bag
is always a major concern, but with newer techniques many such patients today
can be treated.
Minimal invasive (keyhole) surgery has been a big
boon for many benign diseases and is now fast replacing conventional (open)
surgery even in the field of colorectal cancers where many elderly patients
with associated co-morbidities can undergo safe surgeries with fast and
painless recovery. Regular screening is also essential in preventing colorectal
cancer. Screening tests can detect precancerous polyps or early-stage cancer, which
can be treated effectively.
Colorectal Cancer is a lifestyle disease that
contributes to only 10-15 % of causes related to familial genes (syndromes).
So, adopting a healthy lifestyle in the form of regular exercise, a diet rich
in fibre, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and low in processed and red
meat, avoiding alcohol & smoking, and weight management can go a long way
in preventing the disease. It is also important to limit the consumption of
sugary and fatty foods, which have been associated with an increased risk of
colorectal cancer. By following a healthy lifestyle, individuals can
significantly reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer and other
chronic diseases, leading to a healthier and happier life.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author and not of Medical Dialogues. The Editorial/Content team of Medical Dialogues has not contributed to the writing/editing/packaging of this article.