Colorectal cancer affects over 17 lakh people every year
Colorectal cancer arises from the colon or rectum, which are parts of our large intestine. It is among the five most common cancers in India and occurs both in men and women. Globally, it is the 3rd most common cancer, affecting more than 17,00,000 people every year.
However, colorectal cancer can be cured if it is detected early and treated adequately.
Some risk factors are being overweight, not taking part in enough physical activities, smoking, consuming alcohol or excessive red and processed meat, having a strong family history or genetic syndrome, and having ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
While risk factors such as being overweight and smoking are modifiable, genetics is non-modifiable. Therefore, we offer genetic screening or screening by colonoscopy for early detection of the disease. For others, symptoms such as a recent change in bowl habits, bleeding in stools, unexplained weight loss or anaemia, and persistent abdominal pain should be investigated without delay.
A colonoscopy with biopsy is required to establish the diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, staging investigations such as CET/PET-CT scans are done.
Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of two or more of these. Certain biomarkers are also done for personalising the treatment of colorectal cancers with targeted therapies.
Colorectal cancer, in stages I-II, is usually curable with surgery and sometimes with added chemotherapy. However, in stage III, the disease is at a more advanced stage and there is a higher risk of a relapse. So, chemotherapy is usually administered after surgery. In locally advanced rectal cancer, radiotherapy is also an important tool. In stage IV, unfortunately, the disease is not curable. But the survival rates have improved in recent times with chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Immunotherapy has also shown promise in a subset of these patients.
During the treatment journey, support from family members and friends is very important.
Know more about colorectal cancer here.
This article has been written by Dr. Rohit Swami, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Narayana Hospital, Jaipur.