Risk Assessment Can Prevent Colon Cancer
Today, colon cancer is ranked 3rd in the world. The latest statistics have found that there is an increasing number of patients suffering from this disease in Southeast Asia. Thailand, in particular, has seen more cases among both men and women. This is partly because most people neglect to undergo preventive screening. So, by the time they are diagnosed, they are already at the later stages of the disease. Therefore, knowing about colon cancer through awareness, behavioral adjustment, and early screening are the preventative path forward in the long run.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
As the root cause of colon cancer has yet to be clearly established, there are, however, known risk factors – such as:
- Consuming large amounts of red meat and meat with high fat content.
- Consuming large amounts processed meat (e.g., sausages, bacon, ham, etc.)
- Very little intake of fruits and vegetables, or none at all.
- Lack of exercises.
- Regular alcoholic drinks consumption.
- Heredity – If there is a history of colon cancer in the family, there is a higher risk of colon polyps as well as some forms of hereditary colon cancer.
Initially, there may not be any specific warning sign. Some of the symptoms that may point to colon cancer are:
- Change in bowel habits, constipation alternating with diarrhea, rectal bleeding, blood in stool, a change in the stool’s consistency.
- Abdominal discomfort – this depends on the size and location of the cancer (e.g., a large size in the front may cause similar pain to appendicitis; or if it is on the left side, the intestine is blocked which causes abdominal pain as if the intestine is being wringed; etc.)
Colon cancer can be screened through:
- Computerized barium x-ray.
- Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) blood test.
- Other additional diagnoses, such as chest x-rays, CT scan, MRI, or Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS).
Treatment of colon cancer depends pertinently on the symptoms and severity of the disease. These are:
- Stage 0 – This is the formation stage. Cancerous cells are localized on the intestine’s lining and can be removed via an endoscope.
- Stage I and Stage II – Cancerous cells have grown into the intestine but have not spread to the lymph nodes. This can be treated through partial colectomy where the cancer is found. In most cases, Stage II patients will need additional genome testing to determine whether or not to proceed with any chemotherapy; as this will help prevent relapses.
- Stage III – Cancerous cells have spread to lymph nodes. This requires genome testing and can be treated with chemotherapy or targeted therapy, but will also include radiotherapy if the cancer is found in the colon and rectum.
- Stage IV – Cancerous cells have spread to lymph nodes and other organs such as liver, lungs, stomach, ovary, etc. Treatments must begin with chemotherapy together with radiotherapy, to be followed by surgery to remove affected areas.
In the past, surgery for colon cancer required open wound operations which resulted in long incisions of 6 to 12 inches (or 15 to 30 cm.), depending on the size and location of the cancer. Today, as surgical technology has continued to advance, colon cancer treatment through laparoscopic surgery will require the surgeon to make only 4 or 5 small incisions of about 6 to 8 mm each – with one largest incision of no more than 4 cm – so that surgical implements as well as a small endoscope can be inserted to relay the progress clearly on a monitor. The number and sizes of incisions will depend on the number of areas and sizes of the cancer.
Benefits of laparoscopic surgery include small incisions, lessened bleeding, minimal discomfort, rapid recovery, reduced complications after the surgery such as wound infection, and the patient can return to the daily routines quicker. In all, laparoscopic surgery is as effective as the traditional open wound surgery. However, which type of surgery a patient should receive would critically depend on the doctor’s diagnosis, for the best possible treatment result for the patient.
A warning sign for colon cancer is a polyp or tissue growth in the large intestine. Therefore, a regular colonoscopy procedure is recommended every 5 to 10 years for people 50 years old and above. This will help provide a timely preparation to deal with this decease. But, if there is a history of colon cancer in the family, it is recommended that colonoscopy is best undergone from the age of 45 onwards.
Apart from regular medical check-ups and being aware of any unusual symptoms, it is important to maintain consistent healthy diet – particularly of fruits and vegetables. Equally important are regular exercises and maintaining reasonable weight. These will help keep the body in good health and certainly far away from colon cancer.
For more information, please contact
Bangkok Cancer Hospital, Wattanosoth