Look out for these symptoms of colorectal cancer
Colon and rectal cancers are those that involve the lowest part of the digestive system: the large intestine and the rectum.
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
•Stomach pain or frequent gas pains
•Change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
•Blood in the bowel movements
•Low iron level, commonly with anemia (iron deficiency anemia)
•Black or dark-colored stools
What are the stages of colorectal cancer?
After diagnosis, staging is important. Staging is a system used to describe the aggressiveness and spread of the cancer. The stage of a colorectal cancer is assigned based on:
•Signs of cancer spread on imaging studies (CT scan/ PET CT scan)
•Appearance of the cancer specimen, which is removed with surgery
Colorectal cancer stages range from stage I (cancer has invaded into, but not through, the entire wall of the intestine) to stage IV (the cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the liver or lungs).
How does the treatment for colon cancer depend on the stage of disease?
Earlier stages of the disease (stages I through III) are referred to as localized colorectal cancers and generally treated with surgery, with or without chemotherapy. Stage IV cancer is called advanced colorectal cancer and is generally treated with chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
When and how is the surgery for colon cancer done?
Usually, surgery is done for all localised colon cancers. During the surgery, the cancerous part of the colon and surrounding tissues are removed. The lymph nodes (round organs that serve as filters for blood from the intestines) within this surrounding tissue are examined under a microscope to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the colon. Depending on this assessment, the patient is given further treatment in the form of chemotherapy.
When does a patient require chemotherapy for colon cancer and how is it done?
Chemotherapy is a treatment given to slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells. Even after a colon cancer has been completely removed with surgery, cancer cells can remain in the body, increasing the risk of the cancer coming back (called a relapse or recurrence).
Chemotherapy can eliminate these cancer cells and increase the chances of cure. This type of chemotherapy is called “adjuvant,” which means that it is given after a curative surgery (at which time the tumour was removed).
Find out more here.
This article has been written by Dr.Pushpak Chirmade, Medical Oncologist, Mumbai.