March is observed as Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness month to make men and women aware that colorectal cancer can happen to both and often symptoms are difficult to identify in the early stages. This makes it all the more important for individuals to learn about the prevention, management, and treatment options.
Symptoms of Colorectal cancer: Since CRC symptoms are difficult to identify, most cases tend to go undiagnosed and hence this calls for timely screening and diagnosis. Constipation, diarrhea, changes in stool colour, blood in the stool, bleeding from the rectum, excessive gas, abdominal cramps and abdominal pain could be few of the indicators.
Treatment option available: In recent times, there are new diagnosis and treatment options in place. With the approach of personalized medicine moving away from holistic ones, treatment is now focused on the wellbeing of the patient and faster recovery with multimodality approaches such as surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. But what one must remember is that treatment largely depends on the particular situation, including the location of the cancer, its stage and other health concerns.
Fecal Occult blood Test (FOBT) and Colonoscopy are two methods of screening. When diagnosed in the early stage, the treating physician may be able to remove the tumor completely during a colonoscopy. In advanced stage of CRC, partial colectomy and ostomy are preferred forms of surgery that. Once surgery is concluded, it is followed by chemotherapy, radiation, targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy. Since colorectal cancer is found is older people, palliative care is also suggested as a treatment. When palliative care is used along with all of the other appropriate treatments, patients may feel better and live longer. Palliative care is offered together with curative or other treatments that the patient may be receiving. It focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.
Prevention of Colorectal Cancer: CRC is found in older adults; sixty years and above. However, in recent years there has been an increase in younger people. This is largely due to poor lifestyle, dietary habits, obesity, and lesser physical activities.
Get screened: The most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened routinely, beginning at age 45. Colorectal cancer begins as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening helps find the cancer tumor in its early stage and, this way, the condition can be better managed.
Stop Smoking and limit the alcohol intake: Smoking may increase colorectal cancer risk. Quitting smoking completely can be challenge so one can join programs and groups that help quit smoking.
Heavy alcohol use may increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Doctors advise drinking alcohol in moderation only.
Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet—one rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in red and processed meats—may help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. A high intake of red and processed meats has been shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Exercise regularly: An active lifestyle has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Speak with your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you.
Maintain a healthy body weight: Being overweight can increase your risk of colorectal cancer. Eating healthfully and exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy body weight.
Written by Dr. Sandeep Batra, Medical Oncologist, Senior Consultant, MBBS, MD, DNB at Max Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi