20 February 2022
Colorectal cancer is the fifth leading cancer in India and continues to claim several lives every year. However, even as the colon cancer is easily preventable, low awareness levels about the disease haS led to a spurt in cancer cases. To stress on the early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer, Dr Mohinish Chhabra, Director, Gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital Mohali, through an advisory explains the causes, symptoms and prevention of colon cancer.
What is colon cancer?
It is a cancer of the large intestine- colon and rectum. It usually starts in a benign growth- a polyp that arises in the innermost layer of the colon called the mucosa. Polyps that turn into cancer called adenomas. Removal of these polyps can prevent the development of colorectal cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Most colorectal cancer has no symptoms.However, Dr Chhabra said people should look out for symptoms such as recent change in bowel habits, constipation, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, cramps, gas or pain, weakness or fatigue and a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely.
Who are at risk?
Dr Chhabra said this type of cancer affects both men and women with life time risk 1 in 20. Everyone is at risk if they live long enough. Colorectal cancer is most common in people ≥ 45 years of age, which is the most important risk factor. Other factors include individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomas, those suffering from cancer of the uterus or ovaries before 50 years of age, patients with inflammatory bowel disease or removal of gallbladder, consumption of tobacco-related products, obese individuals and those having less physical activity. Sometimes, the symptoms appear at a later stage as patients continue to be asymptomatic. “Screening is of utmost importance as it helps to prevent cancer at earliest,” he added.
What is the importance of colorectal cancer screening?
Screening means getting checked even when you have no symptoms. Colonoscopy is the only procedure that allows both identification and removal of polyps. Removal of these polyps prevents up to 90% of colorectal cancer and with appropriate follow up the chances of death due to cancer is reduced.
How can polyp/adenomas detection rate be improved?
It can be improved by using computer aided detection known as Artificial Intelligence assisted colonoscopy which detects double the number of polyps/adenomas and thus increasing the detection rate. Cancer originates in polyps and it takes about 10-15 years for the disease to develop completely. The affected polyps are removed and thus preventing the progression of the disease. AI is able to detect accurately and the polyps are extracted on the same day.