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Dr. Rajat Bajaj

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer in the large intestine of the body. It is the third most common cancer in the world, and is more common in males, particularly those above 50 years of age. In India, however, the disease seems to affect even those in their 40s.

Ten percent of colorectal cancers are hereditary in nature. Risk factors include smoking, consumptions of alcohol or red meat, and lack of physical activity.

The symptoms appear of this disease generally appear in the advanced stages. These include changes in bowel habits, blood in stools, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. It is an important feature of this cancer that it evolves gradually in the cells, through a multistep process involving genetic mutations over the years. This leads to this disease being amenable to be detected at an early stage through screening.

As per international guidelines, people above 50 years of age should be screened for colorectal cancer through stool examination and colonoscopy. For those having a family history of colorectal cancer or colonic polyps, screening should be done early.

This cancer, if detected in the early stages, can be completely cured. Hence, efforts should be made for increasing formal screening programs among the age-appropriate population. Treatment procedures for this cancer have seen major advances over the years, with immunotherapy greatly helping in the prognosis of the disease.

This article has been written by Dr. Rajat Bajaj, MBBS, MD Medicine(MAMC), DNB Medical Oncology(RGCIRC), European certified medical oncologist, International Oncology Specialities Pvt Ltd Fortis, Noida.