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Dr. Mohan Menon

Colon and rectum form the rear end of the digestive canal. Cancers that begin in this region are called colon rectal or colorectal cancers.

Most colorectal cancers present after the age of 50, though it can occur earlier as well.

Colon cancers start as adenomatous polyps or small clumps of cells along the inner lining of the colon. Left alone, these grow bigger, ulcerate and burrow into the deeper layers of the colon, followed by invasion into nearby lymph nodes and surrounding organs as well as to the liver and distant locations via blood.

Symptoms

  1. When small, polyps rarely produce symptoms
  2. Bleeding in the stool
  3. Constipation or diarrhoea
  4. Pain or cramps in the belly
  5. Anaemia, fatigue, and weight loss

See your doctor if you have these symptoms, especially if you are more than 50 years old.

Early detection and screening: Tests such as colonoscopy offer the best chance of detecting cancer early.

Treatment: Surgery is curative in the early stages and adjuvant chemotherapy treatment helps reduce risk of recurrence. In the advanced stages, the disease can be controlled with combinations of chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapies that target cellular pathways, and immunotherapies. We have also learnt to individualise therapies based on a cancer’s characteristics.

This article has been written by Dr. Mohan Menon, American Board Certified Medical Oncologist, Consultant Medical Oncologist, HN Reliance, Lilavati and Breach Candy Hospitals, Visiting Faculty, Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute, CT, US.