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Dr. Sandeep Kukkar

March is celebrated as the ‘Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month’. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in India, and affects both men and women.

Symptoms

  1. Change in bowel habits
  2. Anemia
  3. Blood in stools
  4. Unexplained weight loss
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Abdominal or rectal pain

These symptoms may be present in some other medical conditions, but any new onset of symptoms like bleeding in rectum, particularly in persons more than 50 years of age, should not be ignored.

Risk factors

Age: Risk of colorectal cancer increases with age (more than 90% of cases occur in people over 50 years of age)

Genetic: A small proportion of cases can have an underlying genetic association, such as Lynch Syndrome and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis.

Inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may increase risk.

Lifestyle factors

  1. Obesity
  2. Lack of physical activity
  3. Smoking and alcohol consumption
  4. A diet low in fruits, vegetables, and fibre
  5. Excess intake of saturated fats

About 50% of cases of colorectal cancer are attributed to dietary factors. Therefore, adopting a healthy lifestyle can decrease your risk of getting colorectal cancer.

Treatment of colorectal cancer: Choice of treatment depends on the stage of the disease, size of the tumor, and spread to lymph nodes and other organs.

Treatment options: Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted and biological therapies.

Screening at an early stage: Colon cancer begins as a small polyp, but some polyps may turn into colon cancer over a period. These polyps can be detected early by colonoscopy and easily removed. Unfortunately, however, very few people opt for screening.

Talk to your doctor about various screening tests so that the disease can be detected even before the symptoms develop.

This article has been authored by Dr. Sandeep Kukkar, Consultant Oncologist, Sohana Hospital, Mohali.