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Dr. B. Rakesh Reddy

In colorectal cancer (CRC), there is a malignant growth in the large intestine. In the advanced stages, the cancer spreads from the intestine to the liver. Rarely does it spread to the lungs or bones, but when it does, it is known as metastatic CRC.

Globally, CRC is the 3rd most common cancer and the 4th most common cause of death. It is more common in the developed countries, but its incidence has also been rising in developing countries. In India, it is the seventh most common form of cancer.

The symptoms are blood in stools, altered bowel habits, anaemia, or unexplained weight loss. The risk factors are advancing age, a family history of colon cancer, a diet high on fat and red meat but low on fibre, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, and inactive lifestyle.

Detection in the early stages maximizes the chances of cure. The screening tests for CRC are fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and colonoscopy.

In the early stages (1 & 2), surgery is the form of treatment, and it is curative in more than 90% of cases. For stage 3 colon cancers, chemotherapy is given for 3-6 months after surgery. For rectal cancers, radiotherapy is also used.

For stage 4 (metastatic) CRC, the primary mode of treatment is chemotherapy. Additionally, targeted therapy significantly helps in improving the life spans of patients. The use of certain ‘biomarkers’ has enabled oncologists to select the appropriate form of targeted therapy. This is referred to as ‘personalization of treatment’.

With the advances in treatment and the advent of immunotherapy, the life span of a stage 4 CRC patient has gone up by 3 years.

You can prevent CRC by being physically active, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, limiting the intake of fast food and alcohol, and exercising regularly.

#It’sNeverTooLate

This article has been written by Dr. B. Rakesh Reddy, Consultant Medical Oncologist & Hemat-oncologist, Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Hospital & Research Center, Visakhapatnam.