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Dr. Priya Tiwari

Cancer arising from the large intestine is known as colon cancer. The incidence of this disease in India is rising.

The symptoms include weakness, lack of blood (anemia) occurring due to blood loss from cancerous lesion in the gut, and/or frank blood in stool. Also, if the cancerous mass continues to grow, it can obstruct the lumen.

Cancer can be tackled if detected on time. Many cancers pass through a precancerous stage. They remain in this stage for a long time. Colon cancer is one such cancer. It is possible to pick up these lesions through periodic investigations. The incidence of colon cancer rises with age, so anybody above 50 years of age should be screened for it. This is done via testing the stool sample for occult blood.

Another method is periodic examination of the whole colon using colonoscopy. Because of these screening procedures, mortality due to colon cancer has come down in many countries.

Early-stage colon cancer is treated with surgery. In many cases, surgery is followed by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is given to decrease the chances of the cancer relapsing. Any cancer releases cells in circulation, which travel to distant sites in the body and give rise to recurrences. Chemotherapy also kills circulating cancer cells, and is the prime mode of treatment in advanced cancer cases.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps prevent colon cancer. One should exercise, avoid alcohol, and include plenty of fiber and antioxidants in their diet. Other risk factors are a positive family history of colon cancer and certain inflammatory disorders of the gut.

It is also important to be aware of lifestyle changes and screening tests.

This article has been authored by Dr. Priya Tiwari, DM (Medical Oncology, AIIMS), MD (Internal Medicine, AIIMS), MBBS ( IMS, BHU) Consultant, Department of Medical Oncology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.