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Dr. Sourav Kumar Mishra

Cancer has been named as the emperor of all maladies. In India, 11.5 lakh new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2018. It is a problem that has too many complex ramifications. With the ever-increasing cost of healthcare, prevention, therefore, is the best way to tackle this menace.

March is the colorectal cancer awareness month. Like all cancers, it is symbolized by a dark blue ribbon.

In 2018, a total of 30,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in India. Changing lifestyles and associated dietary habits (e.g. a diet lacking in fruits and loaded with junk food) have resulted in more number of people being diagnosed with the disease at an earlier age. Otherwise, it is a disease that generally affects older people.

The colon is our body’s waste storehouse. It also helps in the absorption of water and essential nutrients. The earliest symptoms of colorectal cancer include an alteration in bowel habits, especially constipation and sometimes alternating with diarrhoea, bleeding per rectum, etc. Pain in the abdomen is another common sign.

In the advanced stages, the symptoms are related to the site where the cancer has spread. Jaundice due to spread to the liver and breathlessness due to spread to the lungs are some of the signs.

Early-stage colorectal cancer is treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Most advanced-stage diseases are treated with chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

Colon cancer has a strong genetic predisposition. First-degree relatives (father, mother, brothers and sisters) are at a greater risk. Screening is hence recommended in such relatives, especially if a family member was diagnosed with colon cancer at an earlier age.

Prevention is possible by taking part in physical activities, consuming fruits and vegetables, and avoiding smoking and alcohol.

This article has been written by Dr. Sourav Kumar Mishra, MD (BHU), DM (Cancer Institute, Chennai), ECMO, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Oncology, IMS & SUM Hospital, Bhubaneswar.